Cleveland community mourning loss of former mayor pro tem, co-founder of museum

Bill McAdams

By Vanesa Brashier,

Billy “Bill” James McAdams, the former mayor pro tem for the City of Cleveland and one of the founders of Cleveland Historical Museum, died Tuesday July 9, 2019, after a short illness. He was 86.

As a teenager, Bill moved to Cleveland from Huntsville after his father, J.F. McAdams, was named head of the Champion Paper Company in Cleveland. He was the only child to J.F. and Joann McAdams.

He quickly became involved in activities at Cleveland High School, joining the high school marching band. After graduation, Bill attended the University of Texas in Austin, where he earned a law degree.

At the age of 24, he began working as a legal counsel for the Texas Department of Transportation in Houston. It was in Houston that he met his future wife, Jean Noble, who had moved to Houston from New York to manage the children’s wear department for Neiman-Marcus in Houston.

The two were neighbors in an apartment building on Sin Alley, an area of River Oaks in Houston where young executives lived, Jean explained.

“He was running for state rep and working for TxDOT,” she said. “The first time we met was at the pool at our apartment building. I was headed to work. It was a Sunday but I wanted to go work in my department at the store. The first time I saw him, I thought, ‘Oh, my heavens.’”

The two hit it off and their relationship quickly grew.

“I think he wondered about me at first. When I was telling him about my background, about being recruited by Stanley Marcus and about working for Gimbels Department Store in New York City,” she said.

Jean grew up in the high society of New York, being the granddaughter of Gilbert Clifford Noble, one of the original partners of Barnes and Noble, which printed books in the 19th century and early 20th century before becoming one of the biggest booksellers in the nation.

After Bill and Jean married, they welcomed two children, son, Mark, and daughter, Susan. The family moved to Austin in 1968 so that Bill could take a position as a lead counsel for TxDOT, a position he held until his retirement in 1996.

“I was still working for Neiman Marcus and I loved my job there. I was head of public relations and was a personal shopper. I hated to give it up, but Bill wanted to move home to Cleveland to be near his parents,” she said. “He loved Cleveland.”

Retirement was a busy time for Bill as he soon became involved in city matters, holding a position on Cleveland City Council for years, serving as mayor pro tem for part of his terms in office.

He had a keen interest in Cleveland’s rich and vibrant history and soon became a driving force in the creation of Cleveland Historical Museum, located at 203 E. Booth St. At the time of his passing, he was vice-president of Cleveland Historical Society.

He was active in the Greater Cleveland Chamber of Commerce and the Unity Committee of Cleveland, in part because of his wife’s devotion to both organizations.

“Mr. Bill,” as he was referred by friends, was often heard introducing himself at gatherings as “Mrs. Jean’s driver,” as she relied on him to carry her and her wheelchair to chamber luncheons, ribbon cuttings, business openings and community events.

A follower of news and current events, Bill loved discussing the latest happenings in Cleveland. He also enjoyed lively discussions on national politics.

“The thing I liked about Bill is if he didn’t like something, he had no qualms about telling you. I appreciated that about him,” said Jim Carson, CEO of the Greater Cleveland Chamber of Commerce. “He had such a knowledge of things involving TxDOT and Cleveland. He always wanted what he thought was best for Cleveland.”

A funeral service under the direction of Pace-Stancil Funeral Home is being planned at this time. Service time and location will be posted as soon as the information is available.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.