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Date of Issue: April 30, 2010

W.H. Snooks Adams - died April 26

W.H. Snooks Adams died April 26. He was born April 24, 1917, in Cortez, a lifelong resident of Manatee County, and longtime resident of Holmes Beach.

He retired served Holmes Beach as police chief from 1962-1978.

Willis Howard “Snooks” Adams was named Islander of the Year in 1996 by The Islander newspaper.

Adams spent much of his life on Anna Maria Island as a police chief who used common sense as his guide.

He was a friend to Island children, who for more than 50 years, helped put on Snooks Adams Kid’s Day, now managed by the Anna Maria Island Privateers, at the end of the school year where hundreds of children play at Bayfront Park while eating hot dogs and drinking Coca-Cola.

Adams moved to Bradenton Beach in 1947 and later bought a home in Holmes Beach where he retired with wife Liz.

Adams and Leon Stafford started the first fire department in Bradenton Beach with Stafford as chief and Adams as assistant chief. Adams helped build the Bradenton Beach fire house that is a volunteer-supported center today.

He worked for the Island Erosion Board and helped build all the groins that ran down the Gulf side of the Island.

In 1952, Bradenton Beach incorporated and Mayor Jack Jones appointed Stafford its first police chief and Adams as assistant chief.

He is credited with helping set up the first Veterans of Foreign Wars post just after World War II and was commander three times during the 1950s.

In 1956, Adams went to work for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Department. “My job was to take care of the Island.”

From 1962-78, Adams was the Holmes Beach Police Chief.

“I arrested people according to the way they acted or what they had done,” Adams said. “I always believed that when you did more harm than good by an arrest, you made a bad arrest. I still believe that.

However, there were the times that required toughness. He was involved in three shootouts and was shot in one of them.

Adams started the Snook Adams Kid’s Day in 1954 and it remains one of the more popular events of the year.

He recalled there were only 10 or 12 boys, two cases of Cokes and a couple pounds of hot dogs at the first Kid’s Day on Bradenton Beach.

At the event this year, May 15, there will be hundreds of children, many cases of Coca-Cola and loads of hot dogs at the Bayfront Park event in Anna Maria City.

In 1980 he handed the celebration over to the Privateers, then a 10-year-old nonprofit organization put together by a group of men who wanted to help Island youngsters and have fun doing so. He continued to help raise funds to cover the event costs and showed up at the event every year until his health failed.

Adams got his nickname from his Aunt Gracie when he was 2 years old.

Fanny Bryce was at the height of her comedic career and she did a routine with a character she named Baby Snooks. She did both voices. The voice of Baby Snooks was loud and so was the voice of Baby Snooks Adams.

When Adams was a boy, he and his brother would visit their Aunt Sally and her husband Jack Moore. The Moores and their children started Moore’s Stone Crab Restaurant at the north end of Longboat Key.

Lake LaVista in Anna Maria didn’t open into Tampa Bay in the 1920s and was a brackish body of water filled with alligators and small tarpon, Snooks remembers.

“We’d swim with the alligators. They had plenty of food and wouldn’t bother us. There were little tarpon you could catch.”

Snooks was one of six brothers who served in the U.S. armed forces in World War II, four in the U.S. Navy and two in the Army.

Snooks joined the Navy immediately after Pearl Harbor. His brother Cleveland was already in the Navy and was stationed at Pearl on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked.

As a Cortez fisherman, Snooks figured his knowledge of the sea would help him in the Navy.

“We all wanted to do our part,” said Snooks. “I wanted to get in and do what I could. I wasn’t looking to be a hero, but all my brothers and my friends were joining up.”

Brothers Leon and William later joined the Navy, while Henry went into the Army. Brother Clyde joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and was shot down over Germany, eventually becoming a prisoner of war.

In 1985, the U.S. Congress recognized the Adams family of Cortez for its service during WWII with an official entry into the Congressional Record.

After the war, Snooks returned to his roots in the family’s fishing business and got married.

In 1954, he joined the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and was the first — and only for a longtime — patrol deputy dedicated to serving the Island communities.

Following his retirement, Snooks still liked to drive around town “on patrol” every day, just to say “hi” to old friends.

Luckily, one of his daily visits was to The Islander.

He will surely be missed.

A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 1, at Crosspointe Fellowship (formerly Island Baptist Church), 8605 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach. In lieu of flowers, Liz Adams suggested donations to the Anna Maria Island Privateers, PO Box 1238, Holmes Beach FL 34218, or to Crosspointe, 8605 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach FL 34217.