COVINGTON, Ga. — T.K. Adams said in 2011 he knew what he wanted to leave to the next generation.
"I’d like someone to put on my tombstone, say, ‘I was born with nothing, I inherited a little, but I left a lot," he said.
"That’s how I’d like to be remembered."
Condolences have poured in on social media following news of the Tuesday death of the longtime Newton County community and school system music director at age 87.
Services for Adams were incomplete today, Jan. 27, from Lester Lackey & Sons Funeral Home in Covington.
Adams served as the band director at R.L. Cousins High School and, later, Cousins Middle School for 36 years and was elected Teacher of the Year on four different occasions, according to information from the Newton County School System.
He also founded the Newton County Community Band in 1993 and served as its director for regular Christmas and Fourth of July concerts in Covington for 21 years before a final July 4 concert on his birthday in 2014.
In one of more than 120 individual comments on the Newton County government's Facebook page, Carol Poole said Adams "taught my child and thousands of kids to appreciate playing instruments."
"One of the best men you would ever meet!! God bless you TK and thank you for all you have done," Poole said.
Deena Gilland said she was a former student of Adams and called him "an Incredible man that made a real impact on me as a middle school band student at Cousins Middle School."
Another former student, Darlene Smith, said Adams "will be missed by so many."
"Can't even imagine how many students' lives this man touched. I never heard anything negative from anyone in his band program.
"He always made us work, but he did it out of love for his work and his students. Unbelievable legacy."
Newton County Commission Chairman Marcello Banes said Adams was, "A musician, teacher, leader and friend."
"Our community lost a legend in T.K. Adams," Banes said. "Mr. Adams was a great example to many throughout Newton County and will leave a lasting impact in our community."
A 2011 story in The Covington News said the University of Georgia denied admittance to T.K. Adams in 1970 because he was Black.
"Adams had applied to Georgia to pursue a master's degree. He instead traveled to Chicago to continue his education. The school was integrated just one year later and in the 1970s Louise Adams, T.K's wife, attended the university and received two degrees.
"They arrived in Covington in 1959, and Louise taught fourth grade and T.K. taught the high school band at the combined all-black R.L. Cousins elementary and high school."
T.K. Adams told The News, "When we first came to Covington, before we leave here I said, ‘We’re going to be richest people on earth.’ And I feel we are. Not money wise. We can go to any part of the U.S. and we can find someone we were able to touch before we left here."
At President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009, the couple met one of the president’s financial advisors who had gone through T.K.’s band program. On a trip to Oklahoma the couple met a person they had taught who went on to become an aide for former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
"And I can go on and on through this world and find individuals who came through this little place called Covington," Adams told The News.
Adams formed the Newton County Community Band after former mayor Bill Dobbs asked him to create a group for adult musicians, a 2014 Covington News story stated.
In a statement on its Facebook page, The Arts Association in Newton County said, "Our hearts are broken today."
"We lost an extremely special person in our Arts Association family. Mr. T.K. Adams, Newton County Community Band Founder & Director Emeritus has left a lasting impact on our organization and community."
The Arts Association created the T.K. Adams Instrumental Music Scholarship in 2014 for graduating seniors in the county school system to honor him on his retirement from the Newton County Community Band "and to encourage young musicians to study music beyond the high school level," according to information from the organization.
Adams and his wife, a longtime educator and retired Ficquett Elementary principal, were the inaugural inductees in the Newton County School System Educators Hall of Fame in 2017.
They also served as grand marshals of the Newton County Juneteenth Parade soon after it was declared a national holiday in 2021.
T.K. Adams also worked for 25 years serving as director of woodwinds at summer camps throughout the state and was State of Georgia District 10 Music Chairman from 1986 to 1988, according to a 2014 story in The Covington News.
He was an active member of Grace United Methodist Church in Covington and served on numerous local organizations including the Newton County Community Council, the Board of Directors of the YMCA of Covington, The Arts Association in Newton County, Gaither’s Plantation Committee and the Kiwanis Club of Covington.
His awards included the Icon Award for Excellence in Education from Springfield Baptist Church and the Living Legend Award from the Newton County Branch of the NAACP. The Georgia House of Representatives approved a resolution celebrating Adams’ more than 40 years of contributions to Newton County, the city of Covington and the area of education.
The Newton County Board of Commissioners also declared July 4, 2012, as “T.K. Adams Day.”
Michele Becker praised Adams on The Arts Association's Facebook page.
"Such an amazing man, giving (and) sharing the love, making a difference each (and) every day," Becker wrote.
"We all should be more like him."