“Like all of my friends, he died too young,” said former law partner and friend Charley Thompson about Tom Adam. Though Adam passed away at the age of 82, ‘the saying goes, ‘who would want to live to be 100?, just ask anyone who is 99’,” joked Thompson.
Adam was a renowned businessman — both in law and in banking. “He was an excellent lawyer, with a tremendous sense of humor,” said Brett Koenecke, a lawyer still with the May Adam Law Firm in Pierre. “Tom was with the firm, I think some time in the 1960s; I joined in 2001.”
“Tom was certainly one of my mentors,” continued Koenecke. “He observed proprieties that today’s generation wouldn’t have any concept of. For example: Tom had a curious habit of never entering my office, but we would go to and talk in his office instead. He held that talking with someone face-to-face was important, clients or anyone else, you go see them … frequently. I think some of that has been lost.”
Born Feb, 16, 1935, in Deadwood, Adam lost his mother days afterward. He was raised by his father, August, and, later, his stepmother, Bessie. Tom had a younger brother, William.
Tom was raised in Lead, where his father worked for the Homestake Gold Mine.
“After graduating from high school in Lead, Tom was supposed to go to the Naval Academy,” related Thompson. “He was in a mine accident, hurt pretty bad I heard, and he couldn’t pass the military physical at that time. He went to university. You’d never know that he had a physical disability.” Before the accident, Adam had played baseball and football for the Lead High School Golddiggers, and was team captain. His senior year, 1952, he was also the senior class president.
Disability or not, after his freshman year at college, Tom did get into the United States Army for two years. After getting out, he finished his degree at the University of South Dakota.
While an undergrad, Adam met Patricia Mickelson, whom he later married. They were together until her passing; 56 years
“He took great pleasure in our office’s Friday lunches,” said Koenecke. “In conversations, he would make astute observations, usually historical in nature. Such conversation is not easy to come by.”
“Tom was a nice fellow, a good lawyer, a great one to learn under. He was convicted in the righteousness of his clients,” said Thompson. “Eventually, because of necessity in the firm, he had to fill a business law spot, and he was very, very good at it. He was also a great trial lawyer as a younger man.”
“He had a good reputation. Ask almost anyone about Tom’s involvement with the Dakota State Bank in Blunt, now purchased by First Dakota National Bank,” said Koenecke. Adam had represented the South Dakota Bankers Association for almost 40 years.
Adam was indeed social, and thought of others. He served on the national board of the Easter Seal Society, was chairman of the South Dakota Board of Bar Examiners, and was a director of the Sanford Underground Research Facility located in the former Homestake Gold Mine. He also enjoyed hunting, reading and gardening.
“My impression, when I first met him, was that he was socially fun to be around, and easy to talk to,” said Thompson. “Then, he was also a pillar in the building of the law. Tom was steady; a solid citizen in every respect of the word. Tom was Tom,” said Thompson, adding, “Why did he retire when he did; because he had about a thousand grandkids.”
Tom and Pat raised four children, and were grandparents of 14, and great-grandparents of three.