RALEIGH — The death of University of North Carolina at Wilmington professor Mike S. Adams has been ruled a suicide after an investigation by the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office.
New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office (NHCSO) Lt. Jerry Brewer said in a statement that “Mr. Adams committed suicide with a single gunshot wound to the head.” Brewer also said that “No other people were in the home and foul play is not suspected.
NHCSO found Adams dead in his home while conducting a wellness check on July 23, which was initiated by a 911 call. According to a report by the Port City Daily, 911 records show a call came in at 12:26 p.m. on July 23 from a friend concerned that they had not seen Adams in several days, yet his car was in his driveway. The caller indicated Adams had been “erratic” and “stressed.”
NHCSO deputies responded and found all doors to the residence were locked. The officers eventually were able to enter Adams’ residence at 2:06 p.m. The 911 information indicates that the house was cleared by NHCSO, and officers noted that Adams had a gunshot wound. NHCSO has indicated that Adams had been found by deputies in a bedroom.
The 55-year-old Adams was known for being pro-life and for his strong defense of the First Amendment. He was set to retire from UNC-W on Aug. 1 as part of a settlement with UNC-W officials over a remark he had made on social media at the end of May.
“I have some news to relay. The UNCW administration and I have resolved our recent conflict. This will allow me to retire on August 1, 2020 rather than in 2024 as previously planned,” Adams wrote in a June 29 Facebook post. “Although this was unexpected and not in my plans, for both personal and professional reasons this is an answer to prayer. I will be moving to the Charlotte area in the coming months. There will be some more news to follow. But that is enough for now.”
The same day Adams posted to Facebook, UNC-W Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli issued a press release stating Adams would be retiring. A few days later, a second announcement was made, which detailed the approximately $500,000 dollar amount to avoid litigation.
This was not the first conflict Adams had with UNC-W. In the fall of 2006, Adams was denied promotion to full professor by UNC-W. Within months, in January of 2007, The Alliance Defense Fund, which is now named Alliance Defending Freedom, sued UNC-W on behalf of Adams, alleging the school had not given him tenure due to his conservative views, raising the issue of First Amendment violations.
In 2010, a district court judge ruled that the Adams’ opinions were not protected by the First Amendment. The ruling was almost immediately appealed, with the U.S. Fourth Circuit reversing the ruling and sending it back to the lower court for further proceedings.
The case finally went to trial in 2013. Adams and his legal team won and the school settled with him in 2014, paying Adams and his legal team $710,626. The jury found that UNC-W had disregarded its own promotion rules, and that the university had used Adams’ speech activities as a “motivating factor” to bar him from promotion.
Adams was born on Oct. 30, 1964, in Mississippi. He was raised and went to high school in Clear Lake, outside of Houston, Texas. Adams earned an associate degree in psychology from San Jacinto College in nearby Pasadena, Texas. He received his undergraduate degree, as well as a Master of Science in psychology and his doctorate in sociology, from Mississippi State University.
Adams was a published author, writing three books between 2004 and 2013, and was a columnist for the conservative news site Townhall.
Adams is survived by a brother, David, who wrote on social media that the family will be holding a private, small burial service.
“Because he had so many friends all across the nation, a large public memorial service will be conducted at a later date. It may take us a while to work this out but we will let you know as soon as we can,” wrote Adams’ brother.