By Raina J. Johnson
Very few people know what they want their life’s work to be at a young age and actually stick to it. But Cleo Adams; doesn’t fit that mold. After a family member introduced him to body work, and hence has become his life’s work. Adams knew he wanted to learn a trade, and of course, growing up in the 1940’s – there wasn’t much else he could do.
Adams was born in Lexington, Mississippi; he graduated high school in Memphis, Tennessee and attended Stevenson Auto School in Kansas City, Missouri. Adams had family in Milwaukee and decided to come here in 1959, where he started to work in a small shop on 10th and North Avenue.
He also worked for America Motors but kept getting laid off and then being called back years late to work, so in 1966, he decided to go into work for himself. Adams Auto Body was born. In 1970, he moved the shop to its’ current location at 2719 N. 5th Street, where he currently employees 6 people. At age 75, Cleo is active in the shop, making sure business is done right and customers are satisfied.
In his life, Adams has made the most of opportunity by making a difference in the community. “In high school, everybody wants to be good at something. We come from a long line of educators and motivators to do better and that’s what I try to do – I want to do things better,” said Adams. That is why Adams is being honored tonight with a 2013 Black Excellence Award in Minority Business.
Cleo has instilled a spirit of excellence and doing better in his children as well. He has 4 adult daughters with his first wife whom he was married to from 1959 to 1976. He also has a son with his second wife. All of his children are successful, career paths range from a school principle, an educator, lawyer and his son is a student at Marquette University studying finance and helps his father out at the shop.
Cleo Adams began his passion for auto body work at an early age after being introduced to the trade in high school. He was born in Lexington, Mississippi and graduated from Memphis, Tennessee. He knew that he wanted to pursue a career and a trade in auto body mechanics, but the nearest school was in Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated from Stevenson Auto Body School. He had family in Milwaukee and decided to move here.
He worked for a small shop on North Avenue and also America Motors on Richards Street before he opened Adams Auto Body at 2719 N. 5th Street, where he is now and employs 6 people. Adams says he comes from a line of educators and motivators and he attempts to be the same inspiration to others. “Coming out of high school, everybody wants to be good at something and what’s what I do, and encourage others,” said Adams. He is a member of New Testament Church in Milwaukee and has 5 adult children.