A 1974 master of fine arts graduate of the University of Arkansas, New Orleans native Ralph Adamo began publishing poems in national journals while still an undergraduate at Loyola University. He published four books of poems and one of the writings of elderly New Orleanians. He also worked as an associate writer under his old teacher, John William Corrington, on several daytime dramas (notably "Search for Tomorrow" and "Texas") before joining the staff of Gambit—first as a music reporter, later as a general reporter covering political, education, and environmental beats for that weekly paper. He won awards from the New Orleans Press Association for his reporting on education, tax, and hazardous-materials stories, and another for a documentary study of the antique business in New Orleans.
In the late 1980s, he began his university teaching career as the journalism professor in the University of New Orleans English Department, where he also advised the weekly student newspaper, Driftwood. In that capacity, he was ultimately fired by the chancellor of UNO when student reporters proved relentless in their pursuit of stories of the chancellor's malfeasance. (Ten years after Adamo's firing, the chancellor was finally forced to step down for the very activity student reporters had been trying to prove: that he routinely accessed UNO Foundation money for his personal use.) In 1989, his fifth book of poems, Hanoi Rose, was published.
In the 1990s, Adamo taught creative writing at Loyola University and edited the national literary journal New Orleans Review. He turned his attention more seriously to poetry in this period, publishing regularly and winning several prizes (among them the first Marble Faun Prize from the Pirate's Alley Faulkner Society). After Loyola, he worked at the New Orleans HBCU, Dillard University, as a speechwriter to the president.
In 2002, he published a new and selected volume of poems, Waterblind (Portals Press). In 2003, he was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry.
For the four years before Katrina, Adamo returned to the classroom, teaching creative writing three days a week in a public middle school for the arts called New Orleans Center for Creative Arts Academy, as well as full-time as an English professor at Louisiana State University and part-time at Tulane University. Katrina ended all of his employment, and the post-Katrina manipulation by state authorities of the Orleans Parish public schools reawakened in him a passion for investigative journalism, a career he had pursued as a reporter (for Gambit) in the 1980s and taught in the early 1990s at the University of New Orleans.
Since being awarded an OSI Katrina Media Fellowship in 2006, he has pursued the long-running, constantly developing story of the rebuilding of public education in New Orleans, a story with enormous national implications, seen by politicians and educators as a model for how urban school systems, mired in intractable problems, might be re-invented.
Ralph Adamo lives in New Orleans with his wife Kay, and their two children, Jack, six, and Lily, four. Jack attends one of the schools in the grand experiment that is the reinvention of the New Orleans public school system, making the issues of education all the more personal.