Terrence B. Adamson

Chief Legal Officer and Board of Trustees Secretary, National Geographic Society

Terry Adamson is the chief legal officer of the National Geographic Society, overseeing law, business and governmental affairs. He is responsible for coordinating relationships and maintaining good relations with governments around the world and in the United States. He reports to Gary Knell, president and CEO, to whom he also serves as a special adviser.

Adamson also is responsible for international publishing, including local-language editions of National Geographic magazine and other international publications. Additionally, he oversees National Geographic’s standards & practices, records administration and internal audit divisions, as well as National Geographic Creative, which includes the vast archive of National Geographic photographs and film.

Adamson serves as corporate secretary of National Geographic, involved in the governance of the Society. He is also secretary of the Society’s Education Foundation board of governors. He was a member, from its 1996 inception through 2012, of the board of directors of National Geographic Ventures, the Society’s wholly owned taxable subsidiary. He is a member of the management board of the Worldwide Magazine Media Association (FIPP).

Prior to joining the National Geographic Society in 1998, Adamson was a partner in the Washington office of Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler, a New York-based law firm. He was a senior official of the Department of Justice during the Carter administration as special assistant to the Attorney General of the United States from 1977 to 1979, as well as chief spokesman of the Department of Justice from 1978 to 1979.

Adamson was a reporter for The Atlanta Constitution from 1969 to 1971 and served as a law clerk to U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Griffin B. Bell from 1973 to 1974. He was a Henry R. Luce Scholar in Tokyo, Japan, from 1975 to 1976 and a fellow of the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University from 1979 to 1980.

Adamson has been a trustee of the Asia Foundation since 1985 and served as chairman of the board of trustees of the Asia Foundation for more than five years. He has served as a member of the board of trustees and executive committee of the Carter Center in Atlanta since its inception. He represents the Carter family on the Advisory Committee on Presidential Libraries at the National Archives. He is a member of the University of Georgia Board of Visitors, a member of the board of directors of the Henry Luce Foundation and a regular member of the selection panel of Henry R. Luce Scholars.

By appointment of Presidents George H.W. Bush and William J. Clinton, and three Senate confirmations, he served on the board of directors of the State Justice Institute from 1990 to 2010. 

Adamson holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Emory University and a law degree with honors from Emory University. He was named as one of Emory University’s 175 History Makers in December 2011. He is married to Ede Holiday, and has three children, Terry Morgan, Kate and Elizabeth.

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