Go to Content
Columbia College Chicago
Spirit of the U.S. Navy

Spirit of the U.S. Navy

Alton Augustus Adams (1889-1987) BMI
#END-CODE-->

Alton Augustus Adams became the first black bandmaster in the United States Navy when he and his entire Adams Juvenile Band were inducted in 1917 in his native St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Known as "the only colored band in the U.S. Navy, 40 pieces" and as "the best band in the United States Navy," the band spent two weeks performing in New York in 1924 and performed also in Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Harlem, New York; at Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia; and in other locations. The band was also broadcast over radio stations in New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. The Spirit of the U.S. Navy was written for Governor Oman of the United States Virgin Islands and was composed to be performed during the band's 1924 mainland tour. Although Adams was blackballed from membership in the American Bandmasters Association, his name having been submitted without his knowledge and with support from Edwin Franko Goldman and Frank Simon, Adams's marches were played on numerous occasions throughout the 1920s by the bands of Goldman, John Philip Sousa, and Herbert Clarke, as well as by other professional and military bands. Adams retired from the Navy in 1947 and lived on his native St. Thomas until his death in 1987.