A UNC-Wilmington professor who was set to retire next month after a history of controversial social media posts was found dead in his home on Thursday afternoon, law enforcement said.
Deputies with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office responded to the Wilmington home of Mike Adams to do a wellness check and found his body, according to Lieutenant J.J. Brewer. The Sheriff’s Office is conducting a death investigation at the house on Windsong Road, but did not release any other details about the circumstances.
Adams, a 55-year-old tenured criminology professor, was set to retire from UNCW on Aug. 1, after reaching a settlement agreement with the university for more than $500,000. He sparked controversy at the university for more than a decade, particularly and most recently surrounding his comments on social media, The News & Observer previously reported.
Brewer said Adams’ family and the university have been notified.
UNCW officials did not respond to a phone call Thursday evening, but the school emailed the campus community to confirm law enforcement are investigating Adams’ death and to offer counseling services.
“It is with sadness that we share the news that the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office is conducting a death investigation involving Dr. Mike Adams, professor of criminology. Please keep his friends and loved ones in your thoughts,” the statement said.
Criticism over coronavirus tweets
His early retirement was announced last month after Adams was publicly criticized for tweets about Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home orders because of the coronavirus.
In a May 28 tweet, Adams said universities shouldn’t be closing but that they should shut down “the non-essential majors. Like Women’s Studies.”
The next day, Adams tweeted, “This evening I ate pizza and drank beer with six guys at a six seat table top. I almost felt like a free man who was not living in the slave state of North Carolina. Massa Cooper, let my people go!”
Adams also tweeted about the individuals protesting the killing of George Floyd, saying that rioters were “thugs looking for an opportunity to break the law with impunity.”
Petitions against professor
Multiple change.org petitions, with more than 120,000 signatures, started circulating against Adams. And faculty, students, alumni and celebrities demanded that the university get rid of him.
UNC Wilmington Chancellor Jose Sartarelli said the best way to resolve the issue “quickly, with certainty, and in the most fiscally responsible way” was to negotiate a settlement.
The total settlement amount is $504,702.76 and accounts for lost salary and lost retirement benefits. The deal was approved by the North Carolina Attorney General and the UNC System Board of Governors.
‘A tireless defender of the First Amendment’
As the news spread on Thursday, some shared their condolences on Twitter.
“We are devastated to hear of the passing of @MikeSAdams. Professor Adams was a beloved freedom fighter and YAF speaker. Our prayers go out to his family,” Young America’s Foundation, a national conservative campus organization, tweeted.
The UNCW chapter of the Young America’s Foundation tweeted a statement about Adams, who had been a mentor and the group’s adviser. They said he “was more than just his efforts to protect the fundamental rights” envisioned by the country’s founders.
They said he was kind and often cracked a joke.
“A man one could rely upon in trying circumstances and desperate times,” the statement said.
Stacey Matthews, a conservative political blogger and regular contributor to Red State who writes under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah also shared the news on Twitter.
“This is awful. Simply awful,” she tweeted. “Professor Mike Adams was a tireless defender of the First Amendment and conservative values. It was recently reported that he was retiring from UNCW, who gave him grief for years for his viewpoints.”
UNCW professor L. J. Randolph, wrote on Twitter that people should mourn Adams’ death, but “don’t sugarcoat his rhetoric as merely “controversial” or “racially charged.”
“He was blatantly racist, homophobic, and sexist, and his own words left no room for interpretation on any of that,” Randolph’s tweet said.
Adams’ former UNCW colleague Tim Gill tweeted about the news, saying his office was two doors down from Adams’ but they hardly interacted during those three years beyond a hello in the hallway.
“Despite his loud online presence, he sort of faded into the background on a daily basis, which I think people didn’t expect when folks would periodically ask about what it was like to work with him,” Gill wrote.
“I found his words reprehensible, and I just tried to avoid him. I couldn’t believe he was permitted to teach, to be honest, and I recently signed a letter against him and posted it here,” Gill said in another tweet.
He tweeted that he imagined Adams was going to take his money and go to Colorado, where Gill had heard Adams did some summer activities and had friends.
Gill also wrote that he’s seeing people celebrate Adams’ death and “gawk at the situation, as if it’s an episode of Law & Order” and said people shouldn’t lower themselves to that.
“I’m still in shock, and I didn’t expect this,” Gill tweeted. “I don’t think anyone did.”