Californians and the Military
Lieutenant Commander Morgan Adams
First Officer of the Naval Militia to be Placed in Command of a Vessel of the Navy.
By Mark J. Denger, Norman S. Marshall & John R. Justice
California Center for Military History

Morgan Adams, son of James Harvey and Lillian (Turner) Adams, was a descendant of the Adams family of Colonial American history. Morgan was born on April 14, 1886 in Dayton, Ohio, and came to California with his parents in 1893. They settled in Los Angeles where his father established one of the first investment and bond companies in Southern California.

Morgan was liberally educated, attending both public and private schools, including the Harvard Military Academy in Los Angeles in 1905. Following this, he attended Leland Stanford University where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1908. Morgan was extremely active in college, being a staff member of Stanford's college paper, the Sequoia, and was a member of several clubs. He was a Delta Kappa Epsilon, and at graduation was elected a member of the scholarship fraternity Phi Beta Kappa. His educational also included one year in France and one year at the American College in Strassburg, Germany.

Completing his education, Morgan Adams began taking an active part in his father's business, James H. Adams & Co., a pioneer in the bond and investment business in California. His father's interest in this company was sold in 1912 to Henry E. Huntington, J. S. Terrance and E. J. Marshall, in which year his father formed the Mortgage Guarantee Company and Morgan Adams was elected its vice president, and held that office until 1920, when he became its president succeeding his father. This latter company operated under California's mortgage insurance law, investing its funds solely in first mortgages upon appraisals made by appraisers appointed by the State Insurance Commissioner of California.

He married Miss Aileen McCarthy of Los Angeles, daughter of Elmanson A. and Lillian L. (Wagner) McCarthy, on February 12, 1915. They had two sons, Morgan Adams, Jr., and James H. Adams II.

He always had a wholesome liking for water, an enthusiastic devotee of aquatic sports, and a lover of the sea. It was on the sea that he spent most of his free time. During his lifetime he was a member of numerous yacht clubs and was commodore of two. He found himself at home on the water and in the study of practical navigation. As a result he became intimately acquainted with the harbors and coast conditions from Labrador to the Panama Canal on the Atlantic and from the Canal Zone to Alaska on the Pacific. Morgan Adams holds the distinction as a yachtsman. He paid the first toll received by the United States Government for the use of the Panama Canal by a pleasure boat, his boat the "LASATA" passing through the Zone on August 14, 1914. The crossing occurred during a 6,000-mile sea voyage from Jacksonville, Florida, to Los Angeles in 1914.

Mr. Adams had a distinguished career with the Navy. His love of the sea resulted in his appointment as a lieutenant (junior grade) in the California Naval Militia, a counterpart to the National Guard. Having sailed practically all the seas on the globe, and his familiarity with various types of marine engines, applied electricity and navigation, and general experience, secured for him the position of Navigator of the Battleship OREGON when on practice cruises. When World War I came, after four years in the Naval Militia, Lieutenant Morgan Adams entered Federal service on April 6, 1917, as Commanding Officer of the Torpedo Boat FARRAGUT, being the first officer of the Naval Militia to be placed in command of a vessel of the U.S. Navy. He was advanced to the rank of lieutenant commander in 1918 and was later placed in command of the Pacific terminal of the Panama Canal.

In World War II he was called to Washington as an adviser to Secretary of the Navy Forrestal, serving as the secretary's personal representative in organizing a construction system for the vast flotilla of Navy vessels that were to be built. For his efforts he received the Navy's highest civilian award, the Distinguished Civil Service Certificate, presented in person by Admiral Forrestal, who came to California to confer the honor.

Morgan also served the city of Los Angeles as a member of the Harbor Commission. He was appointed to the commission in 1941 and resigned in 1947 when he moved from Wilshire Boulevard to Pasadena, giving up his Los Angeles residence.

Morgan Adams was a thorough business man, being Vice-President of the Mortgage Guarantee Company of Los Angeles, a loan correspondent of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, and was chairman of its board of directors at the time of his death. He also served as director of the Bond Investment Company, Pacific American Fire Insurance Company, Title Insurance & Trust Co., Bank of America of California and the Arrowhead Lake Company, all of Los Angeles.

Morgan Adams died, on August 6, 1951, at the age of 65, of a heart ailment at his home at 2780 San Pasqual Street, Pasadena, California. He was interned at the Inglewood Park Cemetery.

A republican, Morgan Adams was a member of the Los Angeles Stock Exchange, Los Angeles Yacht Club, California Yacht Club (San Pedro), California Club, Los Angeles Country Club, Los Angeles Athletic Club, Tuna Club (Catalina Island), and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. He served as a member of the board of directors of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and held the chairmanship of the Chamber's naval affairs committee.

Special Credits:Article written by Mark J. Denger, archival research by John R. Justice and Norman S. Marshall. Special thanks to the Sons of the Revolution in the State of California and the Sons of the Revolution Library for providing access to their archival files on Mr. Morgan.

 
 
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Updated 8 February 2016