Born on 23 September 1834 at Beccles, Suffolk, the son of Adam and Kezia Adams, he was educated at Wylde's Grammar School. He married Elizabeth Hoy of Mattishall, Norfolk on 26 December 1859 and they lived near Lowestoft.
A staunch Primitive Methodist, he became a local preacher and was then called into the Primitive Methodist ministry by the Yarmouth Circuit and stationed there in 1852-4. However, his health was far from good at that time and he did not continue as a travelling preacher, but remained on the plan as a local preacher for more than sixty years.
He was a grocer, merchant and owner of four fishing smacks. In 1884 one of the smacks sank near the Leman and Ower sandbanks, twelve leagues from Yarmouth. The ship was lost, but the crew was eventually picked up and brought safely back to shore. A Board of Trade enquiry concluded that the ship had been sent to sea in an unseaworthy condition and the case was sent to the Assizes in Norwich. Eventually Adams was cleared of the charge.
He was much involved in local affairs as an Alderman of the Borough of Lowestoft, Justice of the Peace for the County and Borough, Suffolk County Councillor from the inception of the Council, Mayor of Lowestoft in 1890 and again in 1896 and 1907. He was also Parliamentary Candidate for Horncastle in 1908.
Within the Primitive Methodist Church he was extremely active. He was on many District and Connexional committees. He was Vice-President of the Conference in 1900-1. He gave the land for the new Primitive Methodist chapel at Oulton, Suffolk in 1901 (chapel opened 1903) and made other gifts to chapels. He died in August 1921.