Adams Family Values

The mood should have been celebratory around the Adams Petroleum Center. It was the day of the 61st NFL draft, and the Oilers had managed to land Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George, a powerful running back expected to be a key addition to what everybody says will be an up-and-coming team next season.

But there was little to celebrate on the first floor of Bud Adams' redoubt south of the Texas Medical Center, where a desultory contingent of reporters and cameramen had gathered in a makeshift media room that was once a gift shop. On one wall hung an Oiler-blue banner, a few dirty spots visible on the lower right-hand corner. On a table sprawled an unappetizing collection of dry bagels. A bottle of cheap white wine floated in an Igloo cooler on the floor. The sense of impermanence was palpable.

"Is Bud Adams here?" asked one reporter.
An Oilers underling shook his head sorrowfully, in a way that clearly said, "Are you kidding?"

Indeed, on the basement floor below, where K.S. "Bud" Adams Jr. has headquartered his $240 million business empire, the hallway was dark. The doors to Adams' offices were shut. A huge stuffed Brahman with glassy eyes lurked ominously in the shadows, as if on guard against interlopers.

It was behind those doors that Bud Adams and H.L. Hunt's youngest boy Lamar announced the formation of the American Football League back in 1959. That's when Houston was in love -- well, at least in like -- with a younger and somewhat sleeker Bud Adams, who, in a typically Texas fashion, had cast his lot with a fellow football wildcatter after unsuccessfully trying to bring an NFL team to Houston. Over the next three decades, Adams' $25,000 gamble paid off nicely.

A little more than two weeks after the Oilers drafted Eddie George, voters in Nashville approved spending $80 million in public money on a new $232 million stadium for the Oilers, effectively sealing the deal for Adams to move his team to Tennessee. Typically, the 73-year-old Adams didn't stick around Nashville for the post-election celebration, instead hurrying back to Houston to execute an oil lease. With the possible exception of a couple of potentially surreal lame-duck Oilers seasons in the Astrodome, the Nashville vote was the last act in a story that has taken us from those crazy, heady days of "Love Ya Blue" to the succinct bumper sticker kiss-off of "Bye, Bud."

All that's left between Houston and Bud Adams is a smoldering hatred -- and maybe a deep, unrelieved hurt on both sides.

"It takes a long time to accumulate the animosity Bud is carrying with him," says Al Jamison, an offensive tackle who played on Adams' original Oilers team in 1960. "It's just been accumulating in a big old sack he's carrying to Nashville."

But before he takes it with him, we might ask: how did it come to that?

For someone the city has so vilified, it seems as if Houston never really knew Bud Adams very well. An intensely private man, Adams rarely granted interviews and has never been much of a presence in the city's social or political circles. Of late, he hasn't even been much of a presence at the Adams Petroleum Center, a once-prestigious address that is soon to be shuttered and probably demolished.

There was a time, however, when Houston saw Bud Adams in a different light. Consider this 1950 article in the Chronicle, which rhapsodized, in the fawning prose of the day, about a relatively new arrival making his mark on the city:

"A new, dynamic and throbbing success story is being blazed across Houston millionaire-bedecked firmament by one of the nation's youngest executives, Kenneth S. Adams Jr., president of the Ada Oil Company.

"At 27, this handsome and athletic son of a famous father, K.S. Adams, who was president of Phillips Petroleum Company, has swept his way from an inconspicuous start in Houston in April 1946 to a position of respect and admiration in the tough Gulf Coast business league."

To even begin to understand Bud Adams, it helps to know how he got to Houston, and what he left behind in Oklahoma.

The way Bud Adams has always told it, he had landed in Houston quite by chance. He was on his way to the Sugar Bowl on January 1, 1946, when fog caused his plane to be grounded in Houston. He looked around the booming town and decided, then and there, that he wanted to "sink my tap root right here."

A friend close to the Adams' family tells a slightly different story. Back in Bartlesville, Bud's father, K.S. "Boots" Adams Sr., was remarrying. The self-made millionaire had divorced Bud's mother, Blanche, the year before. Boots' new wife, an attractive secretary from San Antonio -- she'd be called a trophy wife these days -- wanted all of the old family members dispatched out of town. Bud Adams, then 23, chose Houston as his destination.

Boots Adams was a legendary figure in Bartlesville, a company town where Phillips Petroleum reigned. He had started out as a warehouse clerk at Phillips, and, by the time he was 38, was one of the youngest presidents of a major corporation in America.

During the Depression, Boots Adams had crisscrossed the country carrying more than a million dollars worth of Phillips' stocks and bonds in small suitcases while locating properties, analyzing their potential and striking deals to drill for oil. A tall, handsome man, he married Blanche Keeler, the daughter of a respected town father whose grandmothers were full-blooded Cherokee Indians and whose brother eventually became head of the Cherokee Nation.

Next to the Phillips clan, the Adams family was the closest thing to royalty in Bartlesville. Today there is a building named after Boots Adams at the Phillips Petroleum complex, and one of the main arteries downtown is named Adams Boulevard.

Some older Bartlesville residents still remember the weekend in 1965 when the entire town shut down to celebrate Boots Adams' 66th birthday (coinciding with the Phillips 66 trademark). There was a parade with a fleet of floats featuring various stages in Boots' life, air shows, toys for children and free movies at the local theater. Even Dwight Eisenhower, Boots' golfing buddy, showed up.

In a commemorative booklet published by Phillips, Boots Adams is shown surrounded by his second wife and family, a Waspish clan of men in dark suits and women in the tasteful Jackie Kennedy sheaths popular at the time. Over to the right in the photo is Bud's sister Mary Louise, and then Bud himself, looking characteristically awkward and out-of-place and clad in an ill-fitting plaid jacket and string tie.

A small, blurry photo on another page shows Bud's only son, Kenneth Stanley Adams III, who was about eight at the time, standing on a float in a pair of red cowboy boots. "Young Kenneth S. Adams III depicts grandfather wearing red boots that promoted lifelong nickname," says the photo caption.

Later, after 29-year-old Ken Adams had killed himself while his father was negotiating to move the Oilers to Jacksonville, family friends would say the troubled young man always had a difficult time walking in the shoes of his famous namesakes.

By all accounts, Bud Adams was well-liked, if envied, while growing up in Bartlesville. He is remembered as one of the only teenagers in town who had a car during the Depression. He left town for high school at Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana, an expensive prep school popular with the offspring of wealthy families in Texas and the Midwest.

At Culver, Adams was a "lad few girls could resist," at least according to his class yearbook.

At the start of World War II, Adams entered the University of Kansas, where he studied in the school of engineering and played halfback on the football team. He never graduated, leaving school to join the Navy, but it was at Kansas that he met his future wife, Nancy.

Adams was fresh out of the service in 1946 when he decided to make Houston his home. That was also the year he married Nancy, and the year his father became engaged to his second wife.

The senior Adams would raise a second family of five children at the same time Bud was raising his brood of three. One of Boots Adams' sons by his second marriage would also be named Kenneth.

If the vanity book The Boots Adams Story is any indication, the elder Adams clearly favored his second family over his first. The book is filled with photos of his second wife and five children. Blanche Adams is never mentioned; there are two small pictures of Bud and Mary Louise.

Boots Adams was always a controversial figure at Phillips. Some considered him a folk hero of sorts, a Horatio Alger figure who built the company into an industry giant. Critics say he was a rapacious man with a lust for wealth and power. A well-circulated story in Bartlesville, one that is repeated in Oil Man, a 1988 book by Michael Wallis on the history of Phillips, is that Boots Adams managed to take all the oil-rich ancestral Indian lands belonging to Blanche when he divorced her. "I always knew he could be a mean and vicious son of a bitch ...," a Bartlesville resident supposedly close to the Adams was quoted as saying in the Wallis book.

Spencer Murchison, who was president of Adams Resources and Energy from 1976-84 and claims to know Bud Adams better than anyone in Houston, remembers that even in his seventies, Boots Adams projected an aura of power when he walked into a room.

"When Bud Adams was 50 years old, he was still addressing his father as yes, sir, and no, sir," says Murchison. "I did, too."

According to another family friend, Boots Adams was a master of the putdown. The friend tells how Bud was once talking to Boots about the Oilers. Bud asked his father if he had seen the most recent game. Boots, a Cowboy fan, replied, "Yeah, they really beat the Giants, didn't they?"

"No, I mean our game, Dad," said Bud.
"Oh, did y'all play this weekend?" said Boots.
It's not as if Boots Adams ignored his first family. In fact, he almost lost his job for helping set his son up in Houston, according to the Wallis book. In addition to helping Bud establish a Houston company, a distributorship for Phillips Petroleum products, Boots also permitted some Phillips workers from Bartlesville to go to Houston to help his son in the venture, which Bud named Adams Oil Company.

The employees were on the Phillips payroll in Bartlesville, drawing full pay. Phillips founder Frank Phillips was furious that Bud had named the company Adams Oil, believing the Adams name was associated with Phillips. He ordered Boots to get his son to change the name, so Bud dropped the last two letters of his surname and rechristened Ada Oil.

According to John Phillips, the son of Frank Phillips, Boots Adams was going to be fired for allowing the Phillips employees to work for Bud. But Boots literally got down on his knees. "He begged and pleaded with father not to fire him and he promised to be loyal to the company forever," John Phillips told author Wallace.

Spencer Murchison says Boots Adams, who died in 1975 at the age of 75, willed very little of his vast estate to his son because, he said, Bud was already a wealthy man.

"Let us all sit down and examine this schematic map of K.S. (Bud) Adams' head. Interesting, isn't it? Over here in this tiny chamber is where the ideas germinate. They wind through this torturous maze, where the guile is added. Now they climb this steep stairway to the storehouse. The money is kept there. When the ideas are properly financed they are speeded to this huge staging area so that they may grow to grandiose proportions."

-- From the 1972 book Blanda, the biography of original Oilers quarterback George Blanda, by Wells Twombly

Although he lacked Boots Adams' reputed charm and charisma, Bud Adams is said to favor his father in one crucial respect: he's a master at the art of the deal.

A family friend relates that Blanche and Boots Adams once gave a dime allowance to each of their children. "Bud talked Mary Louise into taking her dime and buying them each an ice cream cone," the friend recalls. "Mary Louise wound up with nothing, and Bud saved his dime."

In a speech on the "entrepreneurial spirit" he gave to fellow alumni at Culver Military Academy in 1993, Adams recalled his early days in Houston, when he was living at the Rice Hotel for $26 a day and was new to big-time wheeling and dealing. Through his banker, Judge James Elkins of First City National Bank, he learned that a Midwestern oil company was selling its holdings, which included 190 service stations. Adams asked Elkins for a loan of $1.5 million to help finance the purchase.

Elkins offered him 2 percent interest on a loan.
"What about one and three-quarters interest?" Adams said he countered.
"Young man, you don't know a good deal from a bad deal," Elkins supposedly told him.

"I'll take it," Adams said.
Bud Adams was only 24 years old at the time, and the way he told it at Culver, the purchase was his first major deal. To Adams, it was a lesson in the importance of timing and luck.

Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt describes Adams as "unique" in the NFL "because he is a business-thinking person." Adams, Hunt says, hasn't changed much since the two met over steaks at a Houston restaurant to discuss the formation of the AFL, except that he no longer wears a white Stetson.

"Bud deals like an oil man -- he just put ideas out there," says Metro Chairman Billy Burge, the only businessman of any stature who actually supported Adams when he called for construction of a new downtown stadium in 1994. But what works in the somewhat closed world of the oil business, where handshakes and good ol' boy culture still reign, doesn't necessarily translate into the fishbowl environment of professional sports.

It's not the lavish spending on the Warren Moons and Steve McNairs that people recall when they talk about Bud Adams. The stories that have stuck to Bud Adams are the ones about the outrageously wealthy man who'll still nickel-and-dime you at every turn.

Lou Rymkus, the Oilers first coach, won't forget the day he first talked salary with Adams, who offered Rymkus $15,500. At the end of their conversation, Rymkus says, Adams asked, "Now was that $14,500 we agreed on?"

"He's always trying to screw everyone," says Rymkus, who won the first AFL championship for Adams in 1960, then was fired in the middle of the following season. (He was later rehired as an assistant coach.)

Some things don't change. Ask receiver Chris Duncan, whose contract contained an incentive clause promising him a $15,000 bonus if he was picked for the Pro Bowl in 1992. Duncan was, but since he finished in a tie in the Pro Bowl voting with teammate Ernest Givens, the Oilers figured he was deserving of only $7,500. (After Duncan filed a breach-of-contract, he got the other half of the promised money.)

Even his colleagues in the business world have been taken aback by Adams' passion for getting the edge -- even in the most niggling of deals.

Art Dickinson, who worked as a geologist with Adams Resources and still considers himself of friend of Bud's, recalls walking into Adams' office to talk about a major oil exploration effort and finding his boss buried in the classified advertisements.

"I found someone that wants a 1974 Ford pickup door and will pay up to $150," Adams explained. "I think I have one of those on my ranch."

Dickinson looked on in amazement as Adams called his Lincoln-Mercury dealership and asked how much such a door was worth. After he was told that it could bring about $150, Adams phoned his Waller ranch and ordered a hand to rip the door off of Adams' '74 Ford pickup. Then he phoned the party who needed the door and asked if he pay $160. He would, and Adams sealed the deal. Then he turned to Dickinson and said, "I sold too cheap."

By the mid-1980s, Adams' dealmaking acumen had landed him on the "Forbes Four Hundred" list of the country's richest people. Forbes estimated Adams was worth $160 million. His assets included the "troubled" Adams Resources, his oil marketing and production company; more than 10,000 acres of Texas ranches; 15,000 acres of California vegetable farms; and the largest Lincoln-Mercury dealership in the country.

But the '80s were not necessarily kind to Adams, although the most serious financial setback he suffered wasn't due to the collapse in oil prices. Amid the enthusiasm for alternative energy sources that President Carter stirred in the late '70s, Adams had sunk money into coal mines in Kentucky and Tennessee. But, as he told his audience during his 1993 speech at Culver Academy, coal prices were headed down by the early '80s. Adams said he held on to his mines for four years, losing $65 million. Luckily, he said, his other businesses remained successful and he started selling off oil and gas properties and real estate to cover the losses.

"I've been one to gamble. I've lost a lot of money. I've made a lot of money," he confided in his Culver speech. "It's impossible to be right all the time."

But one constant key to success, Adams related, is to "sniff the winds of change and adjust to the changes in a timely fashion." It was in the late '80s that Adams' nostrils began to twitch from the winds of change blowing in professional football. Al Davis had moved his Oakland Raiders to Los Angeles, and owners of other teams long identified with their home cities were considering relocation or angling for better quarters.

So Adams -- who had long considered the Astrodome to be ill-suited for football and the rent he paid to landlord John McMullen and later Drayton McLane to be exorbitant -- threatened to move the Oilers to Jacksonville if Houston couldn't offer him a better deal. And, after business and civic leaders scrambled to meet his demands, Houston did: Harris County floated $67 million in bonds, backed by property taxes and a doubling of the hotel tax, to add 10,000 more seats and additional luxury boxes to the Dome.

At the time, some who know Adams couldn't believe he was serious about moving the Oilers to Jacksonville or anywhere else, because his son Ken loved the team so much. At one time, Adams had placed Ken on the Oilers board, although he was seldom seen at the team's headquarters on the third floor of the Adams Petroleum Center. The younger Adams eventually became vice president of agriculture for Bud Adams Ranch Inc., managing his father's interests on the family's Waller ranch.

It was a beautiful day in Galveston when geologist Jim Snyder looked out across the canal at Pirates Cove and saw his neighbor, Ken Adams, sitting on a pier fishing with this two young sons. The 29-year-old Kenneth had never looked happier, and Snyder made a mental note of what a perfect Norman Rockwell picture the father and sons made.

"He didn't look like the kind of guy who was going to kill himself," says Snyder, whose friendship with the Adams' family goes back to Bartlesville.

But a few days later, on June 27, Ken Adams laid down on a bed at the Waller ranch and fired a Colt .45 automatic into his right temple. Bud Adams was in Jacksonville, negotiating to move the Oilers, but flew home to be with his family.

According to the autopsy report, Ken Adams' body was discovered by his mother and his wife, Susan. There was one live round in the barrel of the .45 and five live rounds in the clip. He was wearing a checked shirt and brown shorts. The autopsy report revealed traces of cocaine, the anti-depressant Elavil and alcohol in his blood. "His fingernails were extremely short," a medical examiner wrote.

Ken Adams is remembered by those who knew him as a decent but troubled young man. As a child, he had been diagnosed as having a learning disability. His two older sisters attended the prestigious Kinkaid school, but Ken went to Memorial Hall High School, a school in Spring Branch for children with learning disabilities. "Bud tried to protect him," says Spencer Murchison, the former Adams Resources and Energy president.

One friend of the family suggests that Ken just wasn't the son Bud had envisioned.

"He didn't have brass balls and smoke a big fat cigar," he says.
Murchison takes a more compassionate view. Adams, he says, was "shaken to his roots" by the suicide of his only son. "He kept saying, 'Maybe there was something more that I could do ... maybe there was something more that I could do," Murchison recalls.

Ruthie Jones, another longtime friend, says Ken's learning disability left him feeling like a failure.

"Bud had no idea he was depressed," says Jones.
Characteristically, Adams kept his feelings to himself, never using the suicide to gain public sympathy. Apparently, he and his wife don't even talk about it to longtime friends. Such a display of emotion is not their style.

Clothier Isabel Gerhart says she once mentioned to Nancy Adams that she had some wonderful old film of Ken Adams a young boy. But Ken's mother seemed to freeze up at the possibility of viewing the film, closing out all discussion by saying, "Oh, really?"

During his Culver talk on the entrepreneurial spirit, Bud Adams' extreme discomfort in discussing personal matters was evident after he was asked whether his success had affected his home life.

He replied no, explaining: "I'm still married. I got married in 1946. That's a pretty good record. My children ... my children ... ah, ah, ah .... They're not all sticking with one spouse." Then he started to ramble, telling his audience that he's a workaholic who stays in the office until 7:30 at night, but adding: "It (success) really hasn't changed my ah, ah .... I like to work. Keeps our lifestyle, your family style kind of building in the same trend."

Some of those who've dealt with Adams behind closed doors say he's far more adept and personable on a one-to-one basis than he is before groups or the media.

"He is a man not given to small talk," says Bob Lanier, who's probably had one of the more famous and public of the many run-ins Adams has had with other Houstonians over the years.

"His image," adds Lanier, "is of Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun. But he is not puffed up or proud."

Former Oiler Bob Talamini recalls trying to see Adams after Talamini was traded to the New York Jets in 1968. He wasn't successful, and chalked it off to Adams' impersonal style. Now a vice president at the local Smith Barney office, Talamini says if he ran into his former boss in the Galleria, they might pass a few moments of awkward talk, and Bud Adams would move on.

"What he needs is a three-week course at a charm school," says Al Jamison, another former Oiler.

One common perception is that Adams simply hasn't given anything back to Houston in return for all the city's given him. But that's not an entirely fair characterization. While it is true that Adams is not on the disease ball circuit, he does have a few pet charities, including the 100 Club for the families of slain police officers and the Ronald McDonald House, a home for children with cancer who are being treated at the Medical Center. The Ronald McDonald House's Naomi Scott calls Adams a "generous contributor" who last year purchased a children's quilt in an charity auction for $25,000.

And then there is Culver, to which Adams donated his substantial collection of Old West and Indian art a few years ago to mark the school's 100th anniversary. (Adams is an avid collector, and the paintings and sculptures sprinkled through his office at Adams Petroleum Center were the subject of a 1994 story in Forbes magazine, which featured one of the few interviews Adams has granted to the media over the years.)

Each spring Adams hosts a barbecue for about 150 Culver alums and their families at his Waller ranch. He's known to stroll around the event in flowered Hawaiian shorts and shirt holding hands with his wife. He also sends out regular newsletters to Culver alumni in the Houston area. "He's in 80 percent of the photographs, and he looks the same in everyone -- like a cardboard cutout," says one fellow alumnus. "It's almost as if he's been forced into being a public figure, and he's not comfortable with it."

The friends of Bud -- and he does have them -- argue that the public has never known what a generous and loyal guy he truly is. Some of them have been FOBs for four decades. He's had the same wife for 50 years. And despite the many changes on the front lines of the Oilers -- the team has had 15 head coaches in its 36-year history, while the Cowboys have had three in the same time -- many other employees at Adams' companies have been with him for 30 years or more. In the '80s bust, Adams was one of the few oil company CEOs who actually tried to retain employees, offering them a cut in pay instead of laying them off, notes Sam Fletcher, a reporter with Oil Daily who's followed Adams' oil business over the years.

And while Adams' disputes with various Oilers are legendary, there are some former players and coaches who remain grateful to Adams for favors he's done them. Joe Spencer, a former Oilers assistant coach, says Adams may have saved his son's life in 1965, when Spencer's son was seriously injured playing football at Tulane. The boy was growing worse in a New Orleans hospital, so Spencer turned to Adams, who dispatched his private plane and pilot to bring Spencer's son to the Texas Medical Center.

Other FOBs tell stories of small kindnesses. Isabel Gerhart, who until recently owned an upscale women's clothing shop near River Oaks, says that since the death of her husband, Adams has offered her counsel on everything from finances to finding a good plumber. The Gerharts were part of a crowd that met for supper at Bud's River Oaks home before every Oilers home game, then boarded a bus for the Dome. According to one former regular, laughing at Adams' lame jokes was the price for the trip. One line was especially grating, and it was heard every time the bus pulled up in front of the Dome.

"Here we are at Astrodome, the eighth wonder of the world," Adams would announce. "And here I am, the ninth ...."

But the ninth wonder of the world's friendships didn't stretch very far or very deep into Houston's power structure, and that left him at a decided disadvantage when he launched his campaign for a new downtown stadium in 1994. As Adams envisioned it, what others would derisively label "the BudDome" would have 75,000 seats for football, a retractable roof and could be adjusted to accommodate basketball and hockey.

The BudDome was a loser from the start. It turned out that Rockets owner Les Alexander, whom Adams said would join him in chipping in some private funding for construction, wanted his own downtown arena. And most of the city's business establishment, which had gone out and helped sell luxury boxes for the Oilers after the Dome was retrofitted in 1988, turned a cold shoulder to Adams.

"They had no interest in working with him," says Jim Kollaer, the president of the Greater Houston Partnership. "He had cried wolf too many times."

One person who did try to work with Adams was Mayor Bob Lanier, who began private discussions with the Oilers owner back in 1993 but came to take a hard-line stance against any public funding of a new football stadium for Adams. Last July, the mayor served notice on Adams that the city would not be subsidizing a new dome. Adams, in turn, sent a letter to Lanier's home threatening to move the team if the city didn't come around to his way of thinking by August 1.

The mayor publicly rejected the demand, and Adams' letter found its way to the press.

Spencer Murchison says that Adams gave up on Houston after Lanier went public with Adams' ultimatum. He likens the episode to Adams' firing of Bum Phillips as Oilers coach in 1980, after three seasons in which Phillips had led the team to the playoffs and had become just about the most popular man in town. It was without a doubt the single most unpopular move Adams had made before he started dickering with Nashville.

According to Murchison, Phillips committed a mortal sin in Adams' eyes by not only refusing to hire an offensive coach, but by going to the media and saying he wouldn't do it -- no matter who had asked him.

"Bud Adams," explains Murchison, "does not like to be criticized in public."
Murchison knew the consequences for Phillips after reading the coach's comments, and he remembers rushing to the phone to call Adams in an effort to head off the coach's firing. He reached Adams' secretary, who told him, "It's too late."

When he read Lanier's public comments last August rejecting Adams' ultimatum, Murchison didn't run to the phone. But he knew the consequences. Soon, Adams would "fire" Lanier and the city and begin negotiating with Nashville.

In doing so, Adams seemed to be reneging on the pledge he made after the Astrodome's 1988 renovation to keep the Oilers in the Dome for the duration of the team's ten-year lease.

"There's an idea in Houston that it is serious when you break your word," says Lanier. "Really and truly, that part shocked me."

Even after Adams had entered into an agreement with Nashville last fall that effectively prevented him from negotiating with Houston or any other city, there was hope against hope that the franchise would remain here.

Kollaer says the Partnership discussed sending a group of emissaries from the business community to Adams, "but publicly and privately, the door was shut."

"He used that [gag order] as cover for not talking to us."
According to an insider who was privy to the Partnership's efforts, during one meeting a member asked whether anyone present had an entree to Adams and could talk to him on behalf of the Partnership.

The room fell silent. Everyone looked at the floor. No one wanted to make the call.

"Bud Adams hasn't been a major player in this city for six years," says Kollaer. "I don't think Bud has the respect anymore because of this circumstance and his personality."

The Oilers moved out of the Adams Petroleum Center, their administrative home for more than three decades, during the last week of April. The building, which Adams sold several years ago but continued to lease, will probably be demolished. The following week, the Oilers began accepting orders for season ticket sales for next season in the Dome, even though Adams reportedly is still trying to buy out the remaining two years of his lease with McLane.

Chances are good there won't be any more Adams buildings in Houston, or any boulevards named for K.S. Adams II. It's hard to know whether Adams feels any regret about all this, whether he believes that somehow things might have been different between him and Houston. But in his speech a few years ago at Culver Academy, the self-described loner did offer, perhaps inadvertently, an insight into his motivation.

"I've been one that always thought things were greener on the other side of the mountain," said Adams.

And so at age 73, Boots Adams' first namesake is headed for the other side of the mountain, still searching for the green.


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