Brock Adams

Last updated

Brock Adams
Brockman Adams.jpg
United States Senator
from Washington
In office
January 3, 1987 January 3, 1993
Preceded by Slade Gorton
Succeeded by Patty Murray
5th United States Secretary of Transportation
In office
January 23, 1977 July 20, 1979
President Jimmy Carter
Preceded by William Thaddeus Coleman Jr.
Succeeded by Neil Goldschmidt
Chair of the House Budget Committee
In office
January 3, 1975 January 3, 1977
Preceded by Al Ullman
Succeeded by Robert Giaimo
Member of the U.S.HouseofRepresentatives
from Washington's 7th district
In office
January 3, 1965 January 22, 1977
Preceded by K. William Stinson
Succeeded by John E. Cunningham
United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington
In office
President John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
Preceded byCharles Moriarty
Succeeded by William Goodwin
Personal details
Brockman Adams

(1927-01-13)January 13, 1927
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
DiedSeptember 10, 2004(2004-09-10) (aged 77)
Stevensville, Maryland, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s)Mary Adams
Education University of Washington, Seattle (BA)
Harvard University (LLB)
Military service
AllegianceFlag of the United States.svg  United States
Branch/serviceFlag of the United States Navy (official).svg  United States Navy
Years of service1944–1946

Brockman "Brock" Adams (January 13, 1927 – September 10, 2004) was an American politician and member of Congress. A Democrat from Washington, Adams served as a U.S. Representative, Senator, and United States Secretary of Transportation. He was forced to retire in January 1993 due to public and widespread sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape allegations. [1]


Early life and education

Adams was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and attended public schools in Portland, Oregon. He attended the University of Washington at Seattle where, in 1948, he was elected president of the student government (ASUW) and was the first student to both serve in that post and receive the President's Medal of Excellence as the University's top scholar. [2] He graduated in 1949 and was admitted to Harvard Law School, where he earned his law degree in 1952.

Adams served in the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1946, and was admitted to the Washington state bar in 1952, opening a private practice in Seattle. He was a member of the American Bar Association.

Adams taught law at the American Institute of Banking from 1954 to 1960, and served as United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington from 1961 to 1964. [3]

Political career

U.S. House of Representatives

Adams was elected as a Democrat to the House and served six terms beginning January 3, 1965. He was chairman of the newly created Budget Committee during the 94th Congress, and was considered a strong candidate for Speaker of the House. On January 22, 1977, Adams resigned to become the fifth Secretary of Transportation following his appointment by President Jimmy Carter and confirmation by the Senate. After resigning his Cabinet post on July 20, 1979, Adams resumed law practice, this time in Washington, D.C., where he was a lobbyist for CSX Corporation and other railroad carriers.

Adams at Cabinet Meeting Cabinet meeting - NARA - 175496.jpg
Adams at Cabinet Meeting

U.S. Senator

On November 4, 1986, Adams was elected to the U.S. Senate, narrowly defeating incumbent Republican Slade Gorton with 50.66% of the vote. [4] Serving one term, he compiled a liberal record and was strongly supportive of his party's leadership.

Sexual assault, rape allegations

Kari Tupper, the daughter of a longtime friend, accused Adams of drugging and assaulting her in 1987. [5] [6]

In 1992 eight women made statements to The Seattle Times alleging that Adams had committed various acts of sexual misconduct, including sexual assault, molestation and rape. [7] Multiple women said they were drugged after being served suspicious drinks and either assaulted or raped. [8]

In the exposé, an unnamed source said, "Adams had long been known by his staff and associates for aggressively kissing and handling women within his reach."

A former Democratic Party activist alleged that in the early 1970s, when Adams was serving in the House of Representatives, he invited her to a Seattle bar, where he drugged her with what he called "Vitamin C", after she recalled suffering from a cold. The woman said Adams followed her home, pushed her onto a couch and raped her. [9]

A young woman in her thirties told The Washingtonian that while she was seated to Adams's right at a formal luncheon shortly after she had taken a new job on Capitol Hill, he slid his hand under her skirt to the upper part of her thigh, whereupon she tried to move her leg away from him. Failing that, she said she tried to remove his hand, but Adams dug his fingers into her skin. [10]

Forced retirement

Adams denied the allegations in a press conference. But already under the spotlight due to previously aired allegations that he drugged and molested a young female aide in 1987, a highly publicized matter in which no charges were brought, Adams was forced to drop out of his reelection campaign. [11] He never lost an election, and lived in Stevensville, Maryland, until his death of complications from Parkinson's disease. [12]


Adams's willingness to plunge into controversial issues was evident in the contrasting assessments of his tenure and accomplishments during a tumultuous period in transportation. The Wall Street Journal in 1979 called him the "biggest disappointment" in the Carter cabinet, while Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook, who led the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration under Adams, called him "absolutely one of the best transportation secretaries we've ever had". [13] Adams was also a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society.

#MeToo Resurgence

In light of the 2017 #MeToo Movement, some see Adams's legacy as a powerful politician who systemically abused his power over young women as emblematic of Washington's culture of harassment. [14]

In 2020, an extensive PBS exposé concerning the workplace for women in the 1990s in Washington, D.C., described the climate of "sexual harassment and sexual entitlement [that] existed in some offices in the Senate", driven by some male senators whose behavior was well known on Capitol Hill. There was a list of congressmen that young women were told to keep away from, which included Adams, Bob Packwood, Strom Thurmond, and Ted Kennedy. [15]

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  1. "Brock Adams Quits Senate Race Amid Sex Misconduct Allegations". The New York Times . Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  2. "Brock Adams papers-Special Collections, UW Libraries". University of Washington Libraries. Retrieved July 3, 2009.
  3. "Biographical Directory of the United States Congress" . Retrieved July 3, 2009.
  4. "Elections & Voting" . Retrieved July 3, 2009.
  5. Rudin, Ken (1998). "Congressional Sex Scandals in History". The Washington Post . Retrieved October 9, 2014.
  6. Ringle, Ken (March 22, 1992). "THE SEDUCTION OF BROCK ADAMS". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
  7. Gilmore, Susan; Nalder, Eric; Pryne, Eric; Boardman, David (March 1, 1992). "8 More Women Accuse Adams--Allegations of Two Decades of Sexual Harassment, Abuse - And a Rape". The Seattle Times . Retrieved July 3, 2009.
  8. "Sex Charges Bring End to Brock Adams' Career : Congress: Senator drops reelection bid after publication of allegations by 8 women of improprieties". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  9. "Sex Charges Bring End to Brock Adams' Career : Congress: Senator drops reelection bid after publication of allegations by 8 women of improprieties". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  10. "Sen. Brock Adams, D-Wash., already accused of sexually assaulting women". UPI . Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  11. "Sex Charges Bring End to Brock Adams' Career : Congress: Senator drops reelection bid after publication of allegations by 8 women of improprieties". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  12. Daly, Matthew (September 10, 2004). "Former U.S. Sen. Brock Adams dies at 77". The Seattle Times. Associated Press . Retrieved July 3, 2009.
  13. "Brock Adams, Former DOT Secretary, Dies". Traffic World. 38: 13–13. September 20, 2004.
  14. "Patty Murray leads women's push for lasting change in handling sexual harassment on Capitol Hill". Seattle Times . Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  15. "What 74 former Biden staffers think about Tara Read's allegations". PBS Newshour . Retrieved May 15, 2020.

Further reading


U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
K. William Stinson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Washington's 7th congressional district

Succeeded by
John E. Cunningham
Preceded by
Al Ullman
Chair of the House Budget Committee
Succeeded by
Robert Giaimo
Political offices
Preceded by
William Thaddeus Coleman Jr.
United States Secretary of Transportation
Succeeded by
Neil Goldschmidt
Party political offices
Preceded by
Warren Magnuson
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Washington
(Class 3)

Succeeded by
Patty Murray
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Slade Gorton
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Washington
Served alongside: Daniel J. Evans, Slade Gorton
Succeeded by
Patty Murray