During his second full term as a councilman, Adams was selected to serve as Mayor of Lynchburg for the last two years of the term. Still, he admits he was starting to lose interest in being a politician, and his loss of his council seat during the 1994 elections was a happy loss. “I was happy to be voted out then,” Adams said. “I was feeling stale and bored, and not particularly useful to the city at that time.”
He managed to stay away from politics for six years before being persuaded to run for – and win - the council seat from Ward I in 2000. Adams will tell you the second stay on council was not nearly as satisfying as the first. “The forward-looking attitude that began the first time I was on council prevailed for probably about 15 years or so,” said Adams. “Over the past few years, it has deteriorated to where council has started to become more about the minutia again. The council needed some kind of leadership, but there was none there the last few years. We got very little accomplished.”
Politics was not a career for Adams, but a public service. He says he was not a very good politician because he didn’t make any effort to go out of his way to take any credit for what was accomplished during his tenures on council. “To be a politician these days, you have to know how to get out there and toot your own horn,” he said. “To some degree, I got into politics the same way I go about running the (car) dealership – by thinking people would like someone who did things a little differently. “I’m very pleased and proud that I was voted off the council the first time for being way too liberal, and the second time for being way too conservative,” Adams added. “That tells me I’m right there in the middle where I ought to be.”
At the age of 62, Adams, an avid runner most of his life, still finds time to run a few miles everyday during lunch. A group of long-time friends and fellow runners get together with Adams for the daily run, although Adams said the older he gets, the fewer the participants there are for the daily run. To compensate for the days when there is no one who wants to join him on the run, he’s taken up biking, which he does one or two days a week for about 15 miles. He also makes sure he reserves a good portion of his free time to join his wife in working on bonsai trees.
Adams presently has about two to three thousand trees in the process of becoming bonsai. He considers it his greatest hobby, and a process that is physical, spiritual and artistic. Not only does he go through the meticulous process of bonsai, he also writes on the subject, and gives presentations at workshops on the subject all across the country. “Bonsai is an artistic creation that is never finished because it’s alive, and will sometimes outlive you,” Adams said. “It also has opened up a broader international community to me, with traditional countries like Japan and Korea.” Another example of that broader international community Adams speaks of came at a recent international bonsai enthusiasts gathering in Washington D.C. There, Adams said, people from Russia, Canada, Austria and other countries “just came up and talked with me, about bonsai and about other things, and there was this different connectivity that I experienced than you do when you are just in Lynchburg,” said Adams. Bonsai will probably be Adams’ primary activity after he retires, he says. There are some seedlings he has that he says he will never sell, although they won’t be ready to become true bonsai for another 20 or 30 years.
So, does that mean Adams plans to live past 100 years of age, to see these seedlings come of age? “I’m an open-minded conservative, which means I always have a long-range plan, and I always expect those plans to be disrupted somehow,” said Adams. “When I turned 60, I made for myself a 30-year plan, and I’ll make up my 10-year plan when I get to 90.”
Julian Adams didn’t save the world from Soviet domination, but he did secure a place in the city he refers to as “a little piece of heaven” – his home, his Lynchburg. “There’s so much you can do here, artistically, musically, spiritually, phys-ically,” Adams said. “There’s so much to our city, if you just take the time to find it.”
Eric Powers is a 20-year radio veteran, and does the on-air news for WLNI-FM in Lynchburg. A native and resident of Madison Heights, Eric and his wife, Sheila, have six children – Ashley, Sean, Nathan, Jeremiah, Sara and Gabriel.
A Civic Life