Spencer Moore Adams was born in Nashville, Tennessee, on 9 May 1912, son of the late Spencer Bell Adams and Mrs. Mary Illa (Murphy) Adams. He attend Orlando, Florida, High School and enlisted in the US Navy on 27 June 1929. He completed the Naval Academy Preparatory course at the Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, Virginia, and was discharged to enter the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland in June 1930. As a Midshipman he was a member of the Wrestling Squad, starring in his Second and First Class years. He was graduated and commissioned Ensign in the US Navy on 31 May 1934, and through subsequent promotions attained the rank of Captain, with date of rank 1 November 1952.
After graduation in 1934 he was assigned to USS Chicago, in which he served as a junior officer from July of that year until June 1936. During that period he had duty in 1935-1936 as an aviation gunnery observer. In July 1936 he reported to the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, where he completed flight training and was designated Naval Aviator in July 1937. He then served as a pilot in Fighting Squadron SIX, and from June 1938 to June 1940 was a pilot of the aviation unit attached to USS Raleigh, the last two months being senior aviator on board that cruiser.
He returned to Annapolis, where he was a student in Aeronautical Engineering from July 1940 until August 1942 and during the next year he continued the course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from which he received the degree of Master of Science in May 1943. He was then assigned to USS Liscome Bay, to serve as Air Officer. When that aircraft carrier was torpedoed and sunk off Makin Island in the Gilberts Campaign on 24 November 1943, he was the senior surviving officer. Of her complement of nine hundred personnel, only two hundred and fifty survived . He was awarded the Purple Heart Medal for wounds received at that time.
In February 1944 he joined USS Hancock, as Assistant Air Officer, and before he was detached in December 1945 he had seven months as Air Officer of that carrier. He was entitled to the Ribbon for, and a facsimile of, the Navy Unit Commendation awarded USS Hancock and her attached air groups for "outstanding heroism in action against enemy Japanese forces in the air, ashore and afloat in the Pacific war area from 10 October 1944 to 15 August 1945..."
He was personally awarded a Letter of Commendation, with Ribbon and Combat "V," from the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet as follows: "For meritorious conduct in the performance of his duties as Air Operations Officer in the USS HANCOCK during operations against the enemy from October 10, 1945 to May 12, 1945. His guidance and outstanding ability to train and coordinate personnel in the use of radar in air operations contributed materially to the destruction of many enemy planes which attacked both day nnd night during operations at Nansei Shoto, Formosa, Luzon, South China Sea, Iwo Jima and the Japanese Home Island of Kyushu, Honshu, and Hokkaido..."
He returned to the United States and in January 1946 reported to the Bureau of Aeronautics to be Head of the Fuels and Lubricants Branch, Power Plant Division. During his tour there, ending in October 1948, he was a member of the NACA Subcommittee on aircraft fuels and lubricants. In November 1948 he joined Fleet Air Wing ONE as Operations Officer, and for six months before his detachment, when deployed to Okinawa, served as Chief Staff Officer to Commander Fleet Air, Wing One.
Returning to the Navy Department, he served from January 1951 to February 1953 in the Bureau of Ordnance, as Head of the Aviation Ordnance Branch, Material Division. Since March 1953 he had been Commanding Officer of Air Transport Squadron SEVEN, with the designation of Transport Plane Commander.
In addition to the Purple Heart Medal, the Commendation Ribbon with Combat "V," and the Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon, Captain Adams had the American Defense Service Medal; the American Campaign Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one silver star and two bronze stars (seven engagements); the World War II Victory Medal; the Navy Occupation Service Medal, Asia Clasp; the China Service Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with two stars.