Betty Phillips Adams, former vice president of the National Urban League and former president of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, died suddenly on July 5. The cause was a heart attack.
A longtime advocate of low-income housing and one of the five public members on the Rent Guidelines Board, Adams also served as a consultant for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Federation of Protestant Welfare Organizations, a social service agency.
In 1986, Adams served as the Jackie Robinson Foundation’s (JRF) second president. She led the organization for a decade. Adams’ tenure was pivotal in the development of their robust education and leadership program, which accompanies the generous scholarship grants given out each year. In 1987, she led the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s barrier-breaking entry into Major League Baseball by engaging the Coca-Cola Company to sponsor the “Jackie Robinson: An American Journey” exhibition, which traveled to seven major cities in three years.
“Betty was an integral part of the tremendous growth of the Foundation and in carrying forth Jack’s legacy,” said Jackie Robinson Foundation founder Rachel Robinson. “The Foundation and I, personally, are deeply saddened by her untimely death.”
“Betty’s wisdom, vision and hard work were critical in the development of the Foundation’s celebrated education and mentoring program that, for 40 years, has addressed head-on the achievement gap in higher education,” said JRF President and CEO Della Britton Baeza. “And I am grateful that long after her tenure as president, Betty remained active in JRF, volunteering her time with our Scholar Advisory Committees and encouraging me personally. Despite her active schedule and physical challenges later on, Betty was never too busy to offer her sage advice. We will miss her dearly.”
Born in Washington, D.C., Adams received an undergraduate degree from Howard University and a graduate degree from Stanford University. She was vice president of the National Urban League and was a consultant to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. In 2003, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed Adams to the city’s Rent Guidelines Board.
Adams is survived by two sisters, Barbara Phillips and Valeria Phillips; her brother, Charles W. Phillips IV; niece, Elyse Phillips, and nephew, Charles W. Phillips V.
A service and celebration will be held at 1 p.m. on Sept. 21 at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, located at 225 W. 99th St. in New York.