High School Sports

Charlie Adams, longtime leader of NC high school sports, passes away

Friends Bob Kanaby, left, executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations, and Charlie Adams, outgoing president of the NFHS, share a light moment at the NCHSAA headquarters on May 6, 1998 in Chapel Hill.. Kanaby was there to speak to the annual NCHSAA board of directors meeting.
Friends Bob Kanaby, left, executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations, and Charlie Adams, outgoing president of the NFHS, share a light moment at the NCHSAA headquarters on May 6, 1998 in Chapel Hill.. Kanaby was there to speak to the annual NCHSAA board of directors meeting. The News & Observer 1998 File Photo

Charlie Adams, the former executive director of the N.C. High School Athletic Association, passed away Sunday morning at his home in Chapel Hill. He was 81.

Adams, a Cary native, is hailed as a visionary in high school sports.

He led the NCHSAA from 1984-2010 after being promoted from assistant executive director and supervisor of officials.

He started the NCHSAA’s Hall of Fame, its endowment, student services program and corporate sponsorship program. He expanded its state awards and led the charge to moving state championships from high schools to neutral sites including several college venues.

“Charlie Adams was a man who was kind and generous,” said NCHSAA commissioner Que Tucker in a statement. “He loved all of us who worked with him, and it showed in his face every time we were together as staff and colleagues. He was proud of and found tremendous joy in the work of the NCHSAA. There was never a time, that I could not talk to Charlie or that he would not offer advice – asked for or not! Some may have known him as I did, but those who didn’t, missed out on knowing not only a great leader, but more importantly, a great man.”

Adams was a star athlete at Cary High and helped the White Imps win the 1954 boys basketball state championship before later playing at East Carolina. He’s in both schools’ halls of fame as well as the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame and National High School Sports Hall of Fame.

He’s also in the National Federation of State High School Associations Hall of Fame, having been the only North Carolinian to ever serve as NFHS president (1997-98).

After a brief post-college teaching and coaching stint in Delaware, he returned to Cary as a coach and was later the Garner High dean of men, assistant principal and athletic director. He joined the NCHSAA staff in 1967. The gymnasium at Cary now bears his name.

Playing a state championship game in a high school gym in Aberdeen, where hundreds of Cary fans were turned away at the door and traveled home to listen to the game on radio, helped shape Adams’ opinion on moving state title games off high school campuses.

The NCHSAA gives out the Charlie Adams Endowed Scholarship each year to two high school athletes.

Funeral arrangements are still being made at this time.

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