Ralph W. Adams, Jr., a graduate of the University of Nebraska, served in the Army Security Agency in Vietnam as a linguist in 1961, and came to NSA in 1965. Widely recognized for his near-native language skills, he served multiple tours in Vietnam as a language analyst for NSA. Mr. Adams served in Vietnam also as a senior language advisor to both the U.S. Army and the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). He was one of the final NSA'ers to escape before the fall of Saigon in 1975.
Over the next twenty years, Mr. Adams held positions of increasing responsibility at NSA. In the late 1980s he was chief of a major overseas liaison office. He served, from 1985-1988, as chief of Legislative Affairs. During this time he received the Exceptional Civilian Service Award for "demonstrating exceptional managerial and professional abilities…" In 1987, Mr. Adams' accomplishments in the cryptologic community were recognized with the Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive.
Mr. Adams, as chief of a major group in the production organization, the Directorate of Operations, led an innovative restructuring of his group which served as a model for similar efforts across the directorate. This restructuring helped get maximum advantage from scarce analytic resources as well as foster more collaboration and technical exchanges.
Mr. Adams in April 1990, became NSA's Inspector General, then, in 1992, was appointed as Chief, NSA/CSS Pacific. Mr. Adams finished his career as the second highest ranking civilian at NSA, the Executive Director from 1995 to 1996.
Throughout his career, Mr. Adams was a strong advocate for diversity in the workplace and fostered awareness of diversity issues. He was one of the original program managers for the Stokes Educational Scholarships, designed to facilitate the recruitment of individuals, particularly minority high school students.
When he retired in 1996, Mr. Adams was presented the National Intelligence Distinguished Service medal, the highest Intelligence Community award for distinguished and meritorious service.