In memoriam: George Adams Sr.

The founder of the company that would become SA Recycling dies at age 96.

June 7, 2018
Edited by DeAnne Toto

George Adams Sr.
Scrap industry veteran and pioneer George Adams Sr. died Tuesday, June 5, 2018, at the age of 96. In 1973 he founded Orange County Steel Salvage, which was later renamed Adams Steel. In 2007 Adams Steel partnered with Sims Metal Management to become SA Recycling.

Adams was born Sept. 29, 1921. in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, to Mary (Kerston) and George Adams. He began his career in the tool and die department at Louis Marx and Co. as a teenager. In 1939, Adams started a mechanical engineering apprenticeship at General Electric in Erie, Pennsylvania. His work and studies were interrupted by the onset of World War II, with Adams enlisting in the U.S. Army in early 1942.

He served in the 95th Infantry and received two purple hearts. After the war, Adams went into the lumber business, opening the first all-electric sawmill in western Pennsylvania.

In 1950, he was called back into the service. He served as a master sergeant in the 101st Airborne Infantry Basic Training Division at Camp Breckinridge Kentucky. After the completion of his service, Adams moved to Los Angeles to work at the Continental Can Co., doing machining and tool and die work.

Adams then started a succession of companies in the manufacturing and construction sectors, including Gemite Construction Co. in 1960. Gemite went on to build single-family homes, apartments, fire stations and mobile home parks.

In 1973, he acquired a small auto-wrecking business in Anaheim, California, that had a one-man scrap metal operation. From those humble beginnings, Adams founded Orange County Steel Salvage, growing the business with the help of his four children: George Jr., Terry, Mike and Wendy.

His dream to build a car shredding operation was realized in 1980 when the company completed installation of a 2,500-horsepower automobile shredder in Anaheim.

The company grew over the years to become Adams Steel and eventually formed a partnership with Sims Metal Management in 2007, becoming SA Recycling.

According to his son George Adams Jr., who now serves as CEO of SA Recycling, “Of all the many things that he taught me, the most important one was to never give up, to never quit. No matter what happened, he just got back up and started swinging. My dad didn’t know what it was to lose because he would never give up, therefore, he couldn’t lose.”

Today SA Recycling is one of the largest scrap metal recycling companies in the country with 75 locations from coast-to-coast, including three deep-water port facilities, 12 auto shredding plants and more than 2,000 employees across eight states. The company is operated under the direction of George’s children.

Adams leaves behind his wife of 63 years, Dolores; their children, George, Mike, Terry and Wendy; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Funeral services will be June 20 in Orange California at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery. Further details are available by emailing