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Lloyd “Little Willie” Adams was a black businessman and well-known gangster who gave opportunities to a number of black entrepreneurs by funding their dreams. When there were no black savings and loan, there was Lloyd “Little Willie” Adams. Adams later became a venture capitalist, building small empires, from liquor stores to mortuaries.

The Zebulon, North Carolina native moved to Baltimore as a teenager and was cared for by close relatives. After completing a fast track of advanced college courses, he took on multiple jobs during the Depression era in a rag factory, delivering newspapers, repairing bicycles and operating a shoe shine parlor. The job he was most known for around the city was running numbers for an illegal lottery. One day, his numbers boss rejected his tickets, accusing Little Willie of arriving too late. Forced to make up the money, he decided to become his own lottery boss at age 16.

Now a gangster himself, Adams opened Little Willie’s Tavern in 1938 with his earnings. Soon, jealous gangs blew up his bar and the law intervened by arresting him.

Adams managed to beat the Supreme Court system on a $5 million numbers conspiracy charge. When the lottery became legal, Adams served as consultant.  He then invested in the dream of Henry Parks & the Parks Sausage Company. By 1969, Parks Sausage became one of the first black-owned companies to go public on Wall Street. Next was the Super Pride Markets chain and Carr’s Beach amusement park. Adams made money on investments as 51% owner of the companies. Unfortunately, some were failures, like a soft drink by prize fighter Joe Louis called Joe Louis Punch.

Lloyd Adams passed away on June 27, 2011. He left behind years of charity toward the NAACP, the UNCF, Liberty Medical Center, the YMCA, the Jewish National Fund and St. Francis Academy.

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