Iconic rancher, pioneer ‘Bud’ Adams passes away at 91

Alto "Bud" Adams

ST LUCIE COUNTY – The Treasure Coast lost a true cowboy, inventor, pioneer and environmental caretaker when Alto “Bud” Adams passed away on Saturday at the age of 91. But for hundreds of people, he also was a friend and family-man who will be sorely missed and his passing leaves a void between Florida’s past and its future.

It is safe to say that Mr. Adams watched over nearly every change the area and state has gone through over the last century. His role in the growth of the area was critical and are a prominent part of legacy that he has left. From his birth in 1926 in Fort Pierce to the foundation of Adams Ranch in 1937, his family has played a significant role in the growth of the state’s cattle business.

“Bud will be sorely missed, both personally and by many others,” said Mr. Adams’s close friend of 50 years Frank Fee III. “He mentored me, and he is one of the finest businessmen I know, and his integrity was his mark; he was a man of few words and when he said something he meant it and whatever he said was generally very telling.”

He is, perhaps, best known for being the only Florida rancher to breed a completely new type of cattle – known as the “Braford,” which is a cross between a Hereford and Brahman and is better able to handle the state’s weather conditions.

“He is one of the few people this century that has done that, and maybe the only person this century who has done that,” Mr. Fee said. “He was an innovator and he was wedded to the land and he thought the land was everything and was not counted in terms of dollars; it was invaluable and he treated it that way.”

Among his many accolades were his service as president of the Cattleman’s Association and his designation as “Landowner of the Year” by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. But he also is a member of the state’s Agricultural Hall of Fame and won numerous other designations and honors throughout his very productive life.

He was devoted to securing his ranchland – which his father, Florida Supreme Court Judge Alto Adams, Sr. purchased for $1.50 an acre in 1937 – as an example of Florida’s pristine environment, and eschewed the use of pesticides and fertilizers that many blame on the creation of algae that infects the area’s waterways farther downstream. His family ranch operates in four counties – St. Lucie, Okeechobee, Madison and Osceola – and comprises more than 50,000 acres.

“He was a studied ecologist and environmentalist, and since he had the raw material to work with he was able to put those ideas to work so far as the husbandry of his ranch was concerned,” Mr. Fee said. “He always believed in keeping the land – and keeping it working – and he’s taken action to see to it that it will project well into the future as a cattle ranching entity and not be developed.”

Among the many other things he saw over the course of his life were service in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was an excellent photographer of wildlife and a major contributor to education through the Indian River State College Foundation. He also lent his support to the AJ Backus Museum and Heathcote Gardens.

According to a statement on the Adams Ranch website, Mr. Adams was “A Christian man, he taught his family and friends by example. He always had a firm handshake, and his word was his bond. His love for the outdoors, especially the Florida prairies and woodlands, were evident in not only his holistic approach to land management, but also his talent for photography. Mr. Bud could find God’s beauty in plants, animals and people, and was able to capture these images on film for the rest of us to enjoy. We are all grateful for his generosity and grace.”

Mr. Adams “leaves behind his wife of 67 years, the former Dorothy Snively. As Ms. Dot’s health took a turn for the worse with a battle with Alzheimer’s disease 12 years ago, Bud was home with her daily, personally feeding her and showering her with love that never wavered or faltered through the time of his passing. He and Ms. Dot raised three sons: Alto Lee III. (Cindy), Michael (Rachael), and Robert (Cindee). He also leaves behind 14 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren,” the statement continued.

“It was a long life, well led, as they say,” Mr. Fee added. “He will be sorely missed by many, and certainly by me. He’s backed up by fine sons and family members that will remain active in the ranch and that was very important to him.”

The family will have a Celebration of Life for Mr. Adams at the Adams Ranch Headquarters, 26003 Orange Avenue, Ft. Pierce, on Friday, Sept. 29, from 3 to 5 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in his memory to the Treasure Coast Hospice at 1201 SE Indian Street, Stuart, FL 34997; and the Florida Cattlemen’s Foundation at 800 Shakerag Road, Kissimmee, FL 34744.

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