Cayton (some sources erroneously state his given name as "Clayton") Bidwell (his preferred name of address) Adam (some sources misspell his name as "Adams") was born in Mobile, Alabama, but reared on the Mississippi Gulf Coast at Pass Christian (pronounced CHRIS TEE ANN) east of New Orleans, Louisiana. There his father, Emile J. Adam, Sr. (1864-1942), was for a time the mayor and also the editor of The Coastal Beacon, later the Tarpon-Beacon, the newspaper of western Harrison County. Adam's older brother, Emile J. Adam, Jr. (1891-1968), was a lawyer, alderman, and the city attorney for Pass Christian. Adam's mother was the former Mattie G. Capers (1866-1954).
Adam graduated from Pass Christian High School and then in 1913, at the age of nineteen, from Millsaps College in the state capital of Jackson. There he received legal training to pass the state bar examination. He served as a private in the United States Army in France during World War I. Adam practiced law in Gulfport for many years and served on the Mississippi Bar Commission.
On February 25, 1920, he married the former Edna Quick (1900-1985), who was an alternate delegate to the 1928 Democratic National Convention, which met in Houston, Texas, to assemble the unsuccessful Smith-Robinsonticket. The couple had three sons, Cayton Bidwell Adam, Jr. (1922-1963), Robert Borden Adam, Sr. (1925-1968), and Jack C. Adam (1932-2007).
In January 1968, Robert Adam, Sr., a lawyer and World War II veteran, and Robert's two daughters, Mary Canon "Nan" Adam (1949-1968) and Margaret "Peggy" Adam (1959-1968), perished in a house fire. Robert rescued his wife, Ann Bell Adam (1924-1968), who died five months later. Bidwell Adam's grandson, Robert B. "Robin" Adam, Jr. (1947-2001), a former long-term resident of California, died at the age of fifty-four in an automobile accident in Phoenix, Arizona.
Jack Capers Adam, the youngest son of Bidwell and Edna Adam, was stricken with asthma as a boy and sent from Pass Christian, to Phoenix, Arizona, where he was educated at the Southern Arizona School for Boys and became thereafter an Episcopal priest. He worked to establish St. Jude's Ranch for Children in Boulder City, Nevada, with financial help from such luminaries as the comedians Bob Hope and Jack Benny and the newspaper publisher Hank Greenspun. Known as "Father Jack", he subsequently left the Episcopal Church because of his opposition to the ordination of women, a policy implemented in 1976. He then became Roman Catholic. He relocated to Mesa, Arizona, where he operated a jewelry store for many years and continued mostly anonymous contributions to St. Jude's Ranch and youth causes. He died three days before his 75th birthday and is interred at Boulder City Cemetery. Jack Adam was survived by his wife of fifty-seven years, Ranelle Adam, and a daughter, Nancy A. Porter, both of Boulder City. A second daughter as well as his two brothers predeceased him.
While in his twenties, Adam was twice elected, the second time without opposition, to the Pass Christian City Council. In 1920 and 1924, he was elected to the Harrison County Commission. He was elected lieutenant governor in 1927, at the age of thirty-three, and served one four-year term. The office had been vacant for nine months when Adam filled it because Dennis Murphree of Calhoun County had succeeded to the governorship in March 1927, upon the death of Governor Henry L. Whitfield.
During the 1963 gubernatorial race in Mississippi, Adam was the state Democratic chairman and hence a leading campaigner for his party nominees, Paul B. Johnson, Jr., for governor and Carroll Gartin for lieutenant governor. Though he lost his oldest son in the height of the election season, Adam seemed to become more enthusiastic when he campaigned for others than for himself. Johnson and Gartin faced the Republican challengers, respectively, Rubel Phillips of Corinth and Jackson, Mississippi, and Stanford Morse, Adam's fellow attorney in Gulfport. Phillips and Morse, both former Democratic elected officials, were the first to run for governor and lieutenant governor as Republicans in Mississippi since 1947, when George L. Sheldon polled only 2.5 percent of the vote. Phillips was seeking to succeed Ross Barnett, who joined Adam in speaking on behalf of Johnson and Gartin, whom Barnett had defeated in the 1959 Democratic gubernatorial primary. Morse hoped to succeed Paul Johnson, who was the departing lieutenant governor.
Adam worked closely with Johnson in the campaign. He produced a letter written in October 1962 in which Phillips requested Adam's help in a potential 1963 Democratic primary campaign for governor. Johnson and Adam questioned Phillips' conservative loyalty; they noted that Phillips as the county clerk in Alcorn County from 1952 to 1956 had supervised the registration of more African-American voters than had been customarily undertaken in most other Mississippi counties at the time. They stressed Phillips' support in 1956 for Democratic presidential nominee Adlai E. Stevenson of Illinois, whom Adam and Johnson had also endorsed in the second race against Dwight D. Eisenhower. Phillips in a memorandum had called Stevenson "the only hope for the South."
Adam questioned Morse's receiving of $250 per month from the Harrison County Development Commisison while also in the state Senate. Morse called Adam "the biggest liar in Mississippi". Morse said that his work with the development commission had been in an advisory capacity and he felt that he had been inadequately compensated for the services rendered.
At the time of his election as lieutenant governor, Adam had been known as "the young firebrand from the Coast". Republican state chairman Wirt Yerger, an insurance agent from Jackson, whom Adam called "Squirt" Yerger, remembers Adam as "an old-line, redneck Democrat who literally hated Republicans or the thought of any Republican in public office."
Adam described candidate Paul Johnson as one who "towers like the giants of the forest above the man [Phillips] who is grazing in the pastures of filth." Adam predicted that the Democrats would give Phillips "the brass ring of political ingratitude that he so richly deserves and said that Phillips would be "buried in a political boneyard of forgotten men."Upon Phillips' defeat, Adam showed his biting sense of humor when he telegraphed his Republican counterpart, Wirt Yerger, boasting that since the GOP had been "electrocuted, will you please advise the date and place you will deliver the funeral oration?"
In 1964, Adam endorsed U.S. SenatorBarry Goldwater of Arizona, rather than President Lyndon B. Johnson but had earlier criticized Goldwater for proposing the sale of the Tennessee Valley Authority to private developers. Because the TVA serves northern Mississippi, Phillips also distanced himself from Goldwater's remarks. Adam called Goldwater "a true Republican where the dollar is involved" but not really a conservative as to "the social revolutions being forced by judicial edicts and bayonets at the hands of ruthless dictatorships", a reference to desegregation.
In later years, Rubel Phillips said that he and Adam "buried the hatchet and became warm friends," when they worked together on the same side in a lawsuit.In 1967, Phillips ran again for governor, this time against U.S. RepresentativeJohn Bell Williams. He modified many of the conservative stances of his 1963 race and positioned himself as a Moderate Republican who appealed to African Americans for support. Phillips polled some five thousand fewer votes in 1967 than he had in 1963, when he faced not just Paul Johnson but the firebrand rhetoric of Bidwell Adam.
Adam died shortly before Christmas 1982 at the age of eighty-eight; his wife died three years later. He is interred with other family members, except for youngest son Jack C. Adam, at Southern Memorial Park in Biloxi, Mississippi. Adam lost five family members in 1968, a son and daughter-in-law, two granddaughters, and his brother.