Bud Adams
refer to caption
Adams in 1964
Personal information
Born:(1923-01-03)January 3, 1923
Bartlesville, Oklahoma, U.S.
Died:(2013-10-21)October 21, 2013 (aged 90)
Houston, Texas, U.S.
Career information
Career history
As an executive:
Career highlights and awards
Bud Adams
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Navy
US Navy O2 infobox.svg
Lieutenant, junior grade
Battles/warsWorld War II: Pacific Theater

Kenneth Stanley "Bud" Adams, Jr. (January 3, 1923 – October 21, 2013) was an American businessman who was the founder and owner of the Tennessee Titans, a National Football League (NFL) franchise. A member of the Cherokee Nation who originally made his fortune in the petroleum business, Adams was chairman and CEO of Adams Resources & Energy Inc., a wholesale supplier of oil and natural gas. He was instrumental in the founding and establishment of the former American Football League (AFL).[1]

Adams became a charter AFL owner with the establishment of the current Titans franchise, which was originally known as the Houston Oilers. He was the senior owner (by time) with his team in the National Football League, a few months ahead of Buffalo Bills' owner Ralph Wilson. Adams also was one of the owners of the Houston Mavericks of the American Basketball Association (ABA) and the owner of the second Nashville Kats franchise of the Arena Football League (AFL). He was elected to the American Football League Hall of Fame, an online site, but as of 2023 is not a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, despite several nominations and an ongoing effort to make him such.

Adams had many other business interests in the Houston area, including owning several Lincoln-Mercury automobile franchises.

Early life

Born in Bartlesville, Oklahoma on January 3, 1923, Adams was the son of K. S. "Boots" Adams and Blanch Keeler Adams. He became an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation by virtue of his maternal line. Two of his great-grandmothers were Cherokee women who married European-American men: Nelson Carr and George B. Keeler, who played roles in trade and oil in early Oklahoma. Keeler drilled the first commercial oil well, near the Caney River.[2]

Adams's father succeeded the founder Frank Phillips as president of Phillips Petroleum Company in 1939.[3] Adams's uncle William Wayne Keeler, CEO of Phillips Petroleum Company for years, was appointed Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation by U.S. President Harry S. Truman in 1949 and served through 1971, when the Cherokee were allowed to hold their own elections. Keeler was then democratically elected and served until 1975.[4] Adams's ancestors include other prominent Cherokee leaders.[2]

Adams graduated from Culver Military Academy in 1940 after lettering in three sports. After a brief stint at Menlo College, he transferred to the University of Kansas (KU), where he played briefly on the varsity football team as he completed an engineering degree. In his lone season on the Jayhawk football team, he was a teammate of politician Bob Dole.[5]

Sports career in Houston

Early career in the American Football League

Adams soon became interested in owning an NFL team. In 1959, Adams and fellow Texas oilman Lamar Hunt tried to buy the struggling and insolvent Chicago Cardinals and move them to Texas.[1]

The Houston Oilers and the Astrodome

Adams and the other AFL owners received a tremendous boost in credibility and net worth in 1966 with the merger of the AFL with and into the NFL. It was effective with the 1970 season. In 1968 Adams moved his team into the Astrodome, which since 1965 had been the home of the Houston Astros of baseball's National League (incidentally, Adams was one of the original part-owners of the team for the 1962 season) [6]

Houston vs. Adams

By the mid-1990s, several NFL teams had new stadiums built largely or entirely with public funding, and several more deals had been agreed to. These new venues featured amenities such as "club seating" and other potential revenue streams that were not part of the NFL's default revenue-sharing arrangements. Due to this, Adams began to lobby Mayor Bob Lanier for a new stadium. However, Lanier turned down the request almost out of hand. Lanier knew that Houstonians were not willing to spend money for a brand-new stadium less than a decade after helping pay for heavily renovating the Astrodome.[7]

Sports career in Tennessee

Tennessee Oilers

Despite the problems, Adams initially intended to stick it out. But, only one game, the finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers, attracted a larger crowd than could have been accommodated at Vanderbilt. Although 50,677 people showed up, the crowd appeared to be composed of at least half, and as many as three-fourths, Steeler fans.[8]

Tennessee Titans

Adams was fined $250,000 by the NFL for this act of displaying an obscene gesture at the Titans/Bills game on November 15, 2009.
Adams was fined $250,000 by the NFL for this act of displaying an obscene gesture at the Titans/Bills game on November 15, 2009.

On November 15, 2009, Adams was caught on video displaying an obscene gesture towards the Buffalo bench after the Titans routed the Bills 41-14. Commissioner Roger Goodell, who happened to be attending the game, fined him $250,000. Afterwards, Adams remarked "Oh, I knew I was going to get in trouble for that. I was just so happy we won."[9]

Personal life

Adams was an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation. He had served on the executive committee of the Cherokee National Historical Society.[2]

He attended River Oaks Baptist Church in Houston. He and his wife Nancy Neville Adams were married for 62 years, until her death in February 2009 at the age of 84.[10] They had two daughters, Susan and Amy, and a son, Kenneth S. Adams III, each of whom (and their children) are registered Cherokee. Their son died in June 1987 at the age of 29 from apparent suicide.[11]


Adams died of natural causes at his home in Houston at age 90 in 2013. His body was found in his River Oaks home after police were called for a welfare check.[12]

At the time of his death, Adams's 409 wins were the most of any current NFL owner. He gained his 400th career victory in the 2011 season finale when his Titans defeated the team which replaced his Oilers in Houston, the Texans. His franchise made 21 playoff appearances in 53 seasons, eighth among NFL teams since 1960. In championship game appearances, his team reached the AFL Championship four times (1960-1962, 1967) and the AFC Championship Game four times (1978, 1979, 1999, 2002) with just one Super Bowl appearance (1999).[12]

See also


  1. ^ a b Maule, Tex (January 25, 1960). "The shaky new league". Sports Illustrated: 49. Archived from the original on February 3, 2014. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c "History Museum receives generous gift", Examiner-Enterprise, November 20, 2004, accessed November 21, 2009
  3. ^ Phillips: The First 66 Years, Oklahoma: Phillips Petroleum Company, 1983
  4. ^ Denson, Andrew (2004). Demanding the Cherokee Nation: Indian autonomy and American culture, 1830-1900. U of Nebraska Press. p. 249. ISBN 978-0-8032-1726-3.
  5. ^ "KU Football rosters 1940-1949" (PDF). KUAthletics.com. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 6, 2018. Retrieved April 5, 2018.
  6. ^ "K.S. "Bud" Adams Jr".
  7. ^ Animosity toward Adams/Poll indicates Oilers' boss is own worst enemy. "The Houston Chronicle". Retrieved May 17, 2012.
  8. ^ Bouchette, Dan. Steelers-Oilers/Titans rivalry plays its final act in Pittsburgh under the Monday night spotlight. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 29, 2001.
  9. ^ "Adams draws $250K fine from NFL", ESPN News service, November 16, 2009, accessed November 21, 2009
  10. ^ "Nancy Adams dies at 84". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved February 2, 2009.
  11. ^ "Son of Oilers' owner Bud Adams Jr. dead from gunshot wound in apparent suicide" Archived December 22, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, Houston Chronicle, June 27, 1987, accessed February 3, 2009
  12. ^ a b Associated Press (October 21, 2013) "Titans owner Bud Adams remembered as pioneer, innovator Archived October 21, 2013, at the Wayback Machine". khou.com. Retrieved May 1, 2014.