The Importance of Black Role Models; Local Hero Makes Global Impacts

By Meta J. Mereday


Black History Month provides a glimpse on the comprehensive contributions that Black role models have made on this country and the world.  It is often criticized because it encompasses the shortest month of the year and it is often viewed as shortchanging an ethnic group whose diverse members made history, and continue to do so, daily.

What one can appreciate about Black History Month is that it does provide a catalyst to learn and understand about people of color and many of their accomplishments made under extreme circumstances.

Their legacies inspired generations both here and abroad. They became role models and unsung heroes who forged paths and did not find it robbery to reach back and bring others along.  The ripple effects of those gestures were often far reaching. 

Harold E. Adams was one of many Black role models whom we should honor and he left behind a significant legacy of service and support.

Commissioner Adams, as he was known to so many because he served for 20 years as the Commissioner of the Nassau County (N.Y.) Department of Drug and Alcohol Addiction (NCDDAA), was a man of commitment and compassion.

A graduate of Hampton University and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, he served in the Army as a captain during the Korean War, returned home and obtained two graduate degrees – a Masters in Social Work from Columbia University and a Masters in Criminology from New York University. 

Prior to taking on the role of commissioner, he had worked for the New York State Division of Parole and then he has established and directed a mental health clinic in Brooklyn, N.Y.

During his tenure with NCDDAA, Adams expanded program services to incorporate the whole family dynamic, something unheard of at the time and widely practiced today. 

He included residential and outpatient services along with vocational training for clients in addition to training and development resources for counselors.  A family and children’s program was also established due to his vision. 

For his staff, working for the commissioner resembled a family unit that provided the security of a strong leader, but the knowledge that he cared for the staff, the clients and the community. 

Even after he retired, he still maintained a direct connection to improving lives of families and to giving children a constructive resource to stay focused on productive futures. 

He was the founding president of the Francis J. Logan Jr. Foundation Inc, a non-profit that was established to fund Camp Discovery, a summer camp experience for children and their families whose lives have been impacted by parental alcohol and chemical abuse, domestic violence and HIV/AIDS.  Giving children and their families who were often shunned by society or whose financial status often precluded them being able to have this experience further illustrated his compassion.

This jazz enthusiast and sports buff enjoyed his life and was well loved and respected. His legacy of service and his commitment to making a difference was celebrated recently at the 20th anniversary Friendship Games, an annual track meet that takes place on Long Island, N.Y. The event brings talented athletes from all over the island to compete on Martin Luther King Day to emphasize the legacy of teamwork and unity that for proactive development that King emphasized.  Adams supported the development of a lot of young people. Even those who had fallen through the cracks of society or those who did not have the best in Black role models, he became that role model and their bridge to a successful life.

In an era where there is the ongoing clamor for Black role models, Adams set the standard in a style that will sorely be missed, but greatly appreciated by those who benefited from the experience.


Mereday is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine, a publication dedicated to the African American community.

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