Richard Donald Adams was born in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, on 14 June 1909, son of Arthur D. and Mary (Patterson) Adams, both deceased. He was graduated from Ambridge High School in 1927, and for a year thereafter attended Bellefonte Academy, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Appointed Midshipman from Pennsylvania in 1929, he was graduated from the US Naval Academy (BS in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering) on 5 June 1932. Commissioned Ensign, effective that date, he resigned his commission as Lieutenant (junior grade ) in 1937 to enter the diesel engine field in Springfield, Ohio, and subsequently spent four years in the that work, including two years in the Philippine Islands. Commissioned in the Naval Reserve immediately after his resignation from the US Navy, he subsequently advanced in rank, attaining that of Rear Admiral to date from 1 April 1963.
After graduation from the Naval Academy, he had five years active duty in the US Navy during which time he was on board USS Lexington, an aircraft carrier, and was Engineering Officer of USS Sturtevant, a destroyer. Ashore from June 1934 until August 1935, he was a student aviator in gliders and airplanes at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida. After his transfer to the Naval Reserve he was employed as an engineer by the National Supply Company, Superior (Diesel) Engine Division, Springfield, Ohio. While there he wrote several "Instruction Books" on Diesel Engines. From June 1939 until March 1941 he was employed by Engineering Equipment and Supply Company, Manila, Philippine Islands, as Power Sales Engineer.
Called to active duty in May 1941, he was assigned to USS Otus, and as Engineering Officer of that submarine tender was among the many bombed at Cavite Navy Yard, Philippines, during the Japanese attack on the US Fleet and installations in December 1941. In November 1942 he was transferred to USS Barnes, which landed the first Marine aircraft on Tarawa. As Engineering Officer of that carrier escort he personally assisted in repairing a high pressure steam leak behind one of the boilers during the Tarawa Attack. Without the repair the Barnes may have been put out of action. Detached from the Barnes in March 1944, he served during the latter months of the war, and until February 1946, in the Industrial Department of the Naval Shipyard, Mare Island, California, after which he was released from active duty.
As a Member of the Naval Reserve, he commanded Naval Reserve Sub-Repair Division 12-34 from September 1950 until April 1953, and for three years thereafter was Commanding Officer of Naval Reserve (Surface) Brigade 12-2, at Treasure Island, California. For two weeks in May and June 1955 he attended the Senior Reserve Officers' course at the Naval War College, Newport, RI. Two weeks in March 1956 were spent at the Naval Amphibious Training Unit, Coronado, California, and from July 1956 until June 1957 had recruiting duty at Treasure Island. In 1956 and 1957, in addition to recruiting duty at Treasure Island, he was Senior Member, Naval Reserve Policy Board, TWELFTH Naval District. He was also Member and Subcommittee Chairman, later committee Chairman, of the National Naval Reserve Policy Board, Washington, DC. From January 1958 until June 1963 he attended the Naval Reserve Officers School and took courses in Public Relations, International Law, International Relations, and Guided Missiles.
After a brief tour of duty in the Bureau of Naval Personnel he became Commanding Officer of the Naval Reserve Group 12-6 (L) at Treasure Island, California. There he had broad military command of thirty-one Naval Reserve Division of different types. In October and November 1963 he had two weeks' active duty as Commander, US Naval Base, New Orleans, Louisanna. In January 1964 he reported to the Commandant Twelfth Naval District for duty in support of the military and public relations roles of the Commandant.
Rear Admiral Adams had the Army Distinguished Unit Badge; the Naval Reserve Medal with Bronze Star; the American Defense Service Medal; Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with two stars; American Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; and the Philippine Defense Ribbon.
Since the war he had been self-employed, being owner of RD Adams Company, San Francisco, engaged in rental and sales of materials handling equipment, and providing inspection service. He was also Manager of an exporting firm, Overseas Industrial Services, also in San Francisco.
Rear Admiral Adams was a registered Professional Mechanical Engineer; a member of the Navy League, US Naval Reserve Association, the Naval Order of the United States, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the American Society of Naval Engineers. His hobbies were photography and music. (He had been a member of the Orchestra and Glee Club at the Naval Academy.)