The Memoirs of Alton Augustus Adams, Sr: First Black Bandmaster of the United States Navy

By Alton Augustus Adams Sr.; Mark Clague | Go to book overview

11
Tourism and the Hotel Association
(the 1950s)

Editor’s Note: Adams considered tourism the islands’ economic lifeline, and history has certainly proven this basically true. (According to the World Fact Book of 2002, tourism accounted for 80 percent of the Virgin Islands’ GDP.) Given Adams’s economic determinist social philosophy, in which social progress is predicated on economic success, it is no surprise that he turned his social service efforts to the tourist industry after his final discharge from the U.S. Navy in 1945. As chairman of the Virgin Islands Power Authority from 1947 to 1953, Adams worked to secure reliable electric and telephone service. After converting the top floor of his large colonial-era home into a guesthouse in 1947, Adams began welcoming visitors with home cooking and tales of island history. Adams claims to have just broken even financially from his hotel venture, but to have gained enormously as a person. He tells of friendships formed with visitors such as cellist Bogumil Sykora, piano prodigy and activist Philippa Schuyler, African American intellectual W. E. B. DuBois, and West Indian statesman T. Albert Marryshow. In 1952 he again accepted a leadership post, this time as president of the Virgin Islands Hotel Association, a position he held for nineteen years. As had the navy band, the association bridged competing social interests: in this case, business and labor, islanders and continentals, large hotels and small guesthouses. Adams saw his presidency as educational. On one hand, he worked to help islanders understand the business dynamics of tourism, often taking unpopular positions against laws taxing visitors or raising the minimum wage. On the other, he taught the usually nonnative managers of larger corporate hotels that traditions in the Virgin Islands must temper business decisions. One vehicle for such community mentorship was his weekly addresses on WSTA radio. Adams’s values remained consistent throughout his adult life. His

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