OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)–When a Highway Patrol trooper knocks on a door, he’s usually the bearer of bad news. But not necessarily so with the new chief of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Gary Adams.
Adams is chairman of deacons at Twelve Corners Baptist Church near Noble, Okla., and one of three “dusty trail” deacons who do visitation ministry.
Appointed head of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol Jan. 15, Adams, 52, oversees 619 troopers and a $36.5 million budget which includes the statehouse patrol. He had spent the previous 10 years in charge of 100 troopers on Oklahoma’s 10 turnpikes.
Still, Adams said, his overriding desire is to serve God, acknowledging it wasn’t always that way after his 1955 profession of faith at First Baptist Church, Hobart, Okla., his hometown.
He quit going to church after high school. After an 18-month stint with the Marines in Vietnam, he returned to Hobart to work in his dad’s automotive repair shop. When a Highway Patrol recruiting trailer came to nearby Altus, Adams signed up and graduated from the 24th Academy in 1968.
“I had my priorities all wrong,” Adams said. “I idolized my work and put all my efforts into it.”
Still, he often told his wife, Lanette, “to keep me in church.”
When Adams was transferred to the Norman area, his wife visited Westwood Baptist Church where David Henson was pastor.
“She encouraged me to go to that church,” Adams said, “but I wasn’t even sure if I could go while I was on duty.” His supervisor said it was perfectly all right for him to go to church in uniform with his patrol car parked out front.
But, because he was a former Marine and clean-cut, Adams said his wife warned him the preacher “was a little like a hippie.”
Henson did have a beard, but he was “an exceptional preacher who led me back to the Lord,” Adams said.
Adams and his wife, with son Chris and daughters Melissa and Abby, have followed Henson wherever he has become pastor. At Woodland Hills Baptist Church near Blanchard, Henson asked Adams to read a Scripture verse during a worship service.
“I had been in gun battles, kicked in doors and participated in manhunts, but to save my life, I couldn’t stand up before the church and read Scripture,” Adams said.
Adams admitted he really wanted to be a deacon at the church, but when time came for nominations, his name wasn’t even mentioned. Then when he was asked to serve as a deacon at Twelve Corners about five years ago, he said he couldn’t do it.
“One of the older deacons in the church visited with me, and then returned to my house to tell me he had never before had a revelation, but God had told him I was supposed to be a deacon,” Adams said.
By this time, Adams said he had learned life’s priorities: God, first; family, second; work, third.
In addition to being chairman of deacons, Adams serves as a Sunday school teacher and, on occasion, fills in for the pastor when he is out of the pulpit.
His first preaching opportunity came when Henson was hospitalized and couldn’t preach a funeral. “I found out two hours before the service I was going to have to preach,” he said. “I was totally dependent on God.”
Adams noted, “I’ve spent a lot of money trying to find happiness. But helping people is where we find real joy.”
With 29 years of Highway Patrol service, Adams had planned to retire and devote full time to deacon ministry. “I had figured I would lose about $1,700 in salary and benefits a month by retiring at this time,” he said, “but I knew God would take care of me.”
However, the assistant commissioner of public safety came to Adams and told him the Highway Patrol was looking for a new chief, asking if he would like to compete for the job.
“I told him, ‘When I was younger, I would have jumped at the chance, but now I had committed my life to deacon ministry,” Adams said. But the veteran officer told the commissioner he would compete if it was God’s will.
Adams said everything he said in the interview for the job should have put him out of competition.
“I said I was not involved in politics and would do what God tells me to do,” Adams said. But the assistant commissioner nevertheless came to Adams and proclaimed, “We want you.”
“He explained the decision was made because so many of the troopers called in wanting me for the job,” Adams said.
Adams said he told the Lord he had been in the Highway Patrol for 29 years, was tired, and had had two bad accidents and should have died in both.
“The Lord told me, ‘You’ve got a lot more hurting people here than in the Twelve Corners area. You’ve got the entire state.'”
Adams said the most satisfying part of his Highway Patrol work has been helping motorists who are “broken down on the highway.”
“I never enjoy writing tickets,” he admitted, “but it’s easier to do when you come upon a terrible crash caused by someone who was not obeying the law.”
The worst part of his job, Adams said, has been working fatalities, especially where children are involved.
Adams said whenever he encountered a motorist, whether for assistance or correction, he always tried to leave them with a word of encouragement. Oftentimes, he would simply say, “God loves you.”
“By my demeanor and the way I live my life, I always try to show God’s love,” the trooper declared.