Elizabeth (Betty) Sparks Adams was born on December 12, 1911 in Romeo, Michigan. She graduated from Pontiac High School (as valedictorian) in 1930 and received an A.B. from Eastern Michigan University in 1934. She went on to receive an M.A. in history from the University of Michigan in 1935, through a State College Fellowship. While a Research Assistant in 1935, she assisted Professor Lewis G. Vander Velde in establishing a home for the archives of the University of Michigan. She subsequently became the first curator of the Michigan Historical Collections working in that position from 1938 to 1939.
Elizabeth Sparks married Donald E. Adams, an Oakland County attorney and later Judge of Probate, in 1936. Together they have been very active in the Democratic Party on the local and state level. Mrs. Adams was elected Justice of the Peace in Waterford Township in 1943 and was elected to the Waterford Township Board of Education for two terms beginning in 1954, where she served as President for two years.
Mrs. Adams has served on the Michigan Historical Commission since her appointment by Governor Murray D. Van Wagoner on March 20, 1941. Appointed at age 29, she served 54 years as the first woman member of the Michigan Historical Commission, and was reappointed eight times by Governors of both parties. She was the longest-serving member of any State of Michigan board, commission, or committee, and is the longest-serving public official in Michigan history. . She stepped down in 1995 (but remained active until her successor was appointed in 1996).
In 2016, she was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame for being both the first woman appointed to the Michigan Historical Commission and the longest-serving member of any State of Michigan board, commission, or committee, and is the longest-serving public official in Michigan history. .
Elizabeth Sparks Adams papers 1861-2001, University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library
Jessica Shepherd, “Motown star, civil rights leader among Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame honorees“, MLive, August 9, 2016.