Kenneth Stanley "Bud" Adams Jr., the man who brought pro football to Houston in 1960 and to Nashville in 1998 (after a stopover in Memphis in 1997), has died at age 90. The colorful Adams had owned the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans franchise from its creation in 1960, turning a $50,000 investment into a billion-dollar operation.
Adams, a founding father of the American Football League, located a franchise for the fledgling AFL in Houston at the urging of fellow league founder Lamar Hunt; the two men announced the formation of the league in a press conference in Adams' boardroom in 1960. Adams struck an early blow for the new league by winning a battle with the NFL for the services of LSU Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon, and his team won AFL championships in 1960 and 1961, the first two seasons of the league's existence.
After a successful run with coach Bum Phillips and Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell in the 1970s and 1980s, and a later flurry of success with a Warren Mood-led offensive attack, Adams' relationship with the city of Houston deteriorated over the lack of a new stadium to replace the antiquated Astrodome, prompting Adams to move his franchise to Nashville. After a rocky start, the newly christened Tennessee Titans made a Super Bowl run in their first season in their new stadium across the Cumberland River from downtown Nashville. Adams had remained involved in the team’s operations from his base in Houston, famously urging the drafting of Texas legend Vince Young in 2006 and hiring Hall of Famer Mike Munchak to replace Jeff Fisher as head coach in 2011.
Adams and his wife Nancy were married for 62 years before her passing in February of 2009. They raised two daughters, Susie Smith and Amy Strunk, and a son, Kenneth S. Adams III, who is deceased. Adams had seven grandchildren, including Titans executive Kenneth Adams IV.
Adams' death comes only three days after the passing of Phillips, the popular coach whom Adams fired following the 1980 season.