By: Meg Oldham
To many Newnan High students, Mr. Doug Adams is simply a pottery teacher. To others, he is the head of the Newnan Chess Club. To even more, he has been an artist, cake decorator, employee at the local Dairy Queen, sailor, electrician, magician and father.
Mr. Adams began teaching in 1999 at East Coweta High School, where he worked for one year before he was offered his current position at Newnan High School. He has been teaching at NHS for 17 years. Even after almost two decades in the classroom, Mr. Adams still loves to share knowledge.
“I enjoy sharing knowledge,” Mr. Adams said about his current career. “I’m a lifelong
learner. I like learning, but I love to share what I learn even more.”
Teaching, however, is only the most recent of Mr. Adams’s many professions. After serving a few years in the U.S. Navy, he came home to Newnan to work at his father’s Dairy Queen franchise, the same one that still stands on Jefferson Street.
“Starting out right after high school, I went to college for a year, found out that wasn’t for me, so I joined the Navy.” Adams said. “I found out what I liked and didn’t like, then I went to work for my father at the Dairy Queen right here in downtown Newnan.”
Mr. Adams would take his training he received in the Navy and earn his electrician’s license to assist with the machine upkeep at Dairy Queen.
“After that, I went to Carroll Tech for heating and air conditioning, so I could keep the compressors and the machinery working at the Dairy Queen,” he noted.
Mr. Adams then found his way into the Coweta County School System, not through the classroom, but instead through the bus loop. After spending time behind the wheel, Mr. Adams decided that he should go back to school, and that decision ultimately led him to the classroom.
“I was a bus driver for the county system back in 1986, and after all that I decided to go back to school,” he stated. “I took psychology to figure out why I thought the way I thought and to learn about myself, so I got a degree in that and double majored in studio art with an emphasis in glass and ceramics.”
Through his art, Mr. Adams began to feel a deeper connection to the symbols and patterns that he used in his pottery and other works that seemed to derive from a Native American style of art. This connection eventually led him to discovering the history of his ancestors, and it helped explain his love of these specific art forms.
While in his forties, Mr. Adams began to research his heritage and discovered that he had a very rich Native American background.
“My great-grandmother on my father’s side was Muskogee, but they were also relatives of Jefferson Davis,” he began. “So when the indigenous people were asked to leave, my ancestors claimed lineage to Davis, and nobody was going to make Jefferson Davis’s relatives leave the state. They had to become American citizens and give up all claim to being taken care of by the government as Native Americans.”
The native lineage does not just belong on his father’s side.
“My mother’s people were originally from Scotland, then they came over to South Carolina in 1832. As they migrated out west, their wagon train was massacred, and everyone killed except for my great-great-great-grandfather who was a little tiny baby infant with red hair.”
The baby’s red hair, Mr. Adams explained, was the luck that kept his family name alive.
“The Choctaw nation had never seen a baby with red hair before, so they kept him and raised him as Choctaw. If they hadn’t kept him, I wouldn’t be here. I guess that’s why I have such a fondness for that specific culture, which you can see in the symmetry and the shapes and patterns I incorporate into my art and into my pottery.”
Mr. Adams said it was only after years of using pottery as a stress reliever that he decided to earn a degree teaching art, which would provide a more reliable job for his ever growing family.
Mr. Adams has ten biological children and will soon have four adopted children.
When asked about the size of his family, Adams responded “my wife loves children. She is the epitome of love and nurturing. We had 5 sons, but we wanted some girls too, so we decided that we would go to Russia and adopt our first daughter.”
The couple thought they were done having biological children, but after arriving in Russia to adopt their first daughter, Mr. Adams’ wife learned that she was going to have another child, which would, to the surprise of the family, become their second daughter.
“When we got to Russia, we found out we were pregnant again. So, we said we were going to go ahead and get this little girl, because we were almost positive our new baby would be a boy. 7 months after we got home from Russia, our first biological daughter was born. It was boy, girl, boy, girl, after that,” he explained.
When Adams and his wife were officially unable to have any more biological children, they adopted a young girl that Mrs. Adams had seen in an orphanage while visiting China.
The Adams’ also have two more children in the process of being adopted who will come from China at the beginning of April.
“I’d love to spread the word out there that these children need to be adopted,” Mr. Adams said.
While teaching and being a father was not always a part of Mr. Adams’s life, chess was. His original plan was to create a Magicians Club similar to the one he had been president of when he was in high school.
When the Magicians Club idea fell through, Adams suggested a Chess Club, as he had been playing since he was eight years old.
“My brother, who was seventeen at the time, taught me how to play. I was constantly beat, but I knew I could beat him if I kept practicing, so now I do. He doesn’t play me anymore!” Mr. Adams said, laughing.
When asked about the dynamic and the goals of the team, Adams said there are two ways to approach chess.
“You can let it be something that allows students to get together and play and enjoy playing one another and pick up skills while they’re doing it, or you can run it like a class of academia where there is very little fun in it, but you can get amazing results,” Mr. Adams explained. “I would rather have my students come down every week and enjoy playing.”
The advice that Mr. Adams said that he would give to any aspiring potter or chess player is to be persistent when following your dreams, “Do what your heart tells you to do. If you make things that you like, because you’re making it from your heart, you know it has value, and eventually someone else will see that value too.”