Local Man's Second Chance Dashed By Tragedy

Apr 16, 2014

Credit Jean-jacques QUEYRIE via flickr

John Henry Adams was psyched.  Beyond excited. He could feel a new life. In comments made for a WYPR news story, Adams was asked if he had any pressing problems. “As long as I’m free and God wakes me up every day I don’t have no problems. I’m a humble individual,” he said.

He could see a new pathway, a new way to support his four children. He had finished an auto detailing program with the plaudits of his supervisors – and the respect of new friends. He had been unhappy in the beginning. The program required trainees to work for several weeks without pay. Commitment had to be demonstrated. Some sacrifice was demanded.

Eventually, it came to him: If he finished the program, he might have a marketable skill. He might be on his own for once, earning and providing for himself and his kids.

And then, last Tuesday evening, he was stabbed to death in the 1500 block of Pennsylvania Avenue. It was about 7 pm. All the promise, all the hard work, all the new insight vanished as if they never existed.

For Adams’s new friends, the impact was devastating. “When you bond and get close and get to know someone like that, it’s like, heartbreaking. You know?" said his classmate Tasha Carlton. "Especially when you know [what he] was working and striving to do...All he wanted to do was like, make everyone in his life proud, you know, proud of him.”

She said she had no idea what might have happened on the street that night. “Like most human beings we don’t start trouble. We don’t look for trouble but if trouble comes to us we’ll deal with it,” she said.

Adams had been a leader in the effort to keep going, to keep working, to do better every day, says Richard Marshall, another friend at Vehicles for Change, which runs the detailing program. “The thing about it that kept us together is us pushing each other. Us pushing each other for that better day,” Marshall said.

Vehicles for Change, founded 15 years ago, provides used cars for workers who can’t keep jobs if they can’t get to the workplace.

“What I [admired] about John was how smart he was, how hard working he was and how beautifully he could explain our program,” said Phil Holmes, director of the detailing program.

Like most of the trainees, Adams was determined to have his own business. Starting from scratch is tough, but Adams seemed to have what it takes. “We knew this man was not only going to get a job, but because of the quality of his work he was going to a job that would allow him to take care of his children,” Holmes said.

Jen Harrington, the program’s marketing director, said Vehicles for Change is very invested in everyone connected with the program: the families who get cars, the trainees and the program staff. “It hurts, ...to know that that potential is gone, and that individual is gone unnecessarily.”

There was no consolation. But there was one more thing that would be remembered about John Adams. Vehicles for Change advertised recently for a tow truck driver. Adams, who had no license, pushed hard for his friend Richard Marshall. This was Marshall’s first week on the job.