Born in Topeka, Kansas on August 6, 1897, Kenneth Miller Adams studied with G.M. Stone in Topeka at age 16, before entering the Art Institute of Chicago in 1916. After serving in the Army as a private in World War I, he studied at the Art Students League in New York beginning 1919, the pupil of Kenneth Hayes Miller, Arthur Bridgman, Alexander Sterne, and Eugene Speicher. Summers were spent with Andrew Dasburg in Woodstock, New York. From 1921 to 1923, Adams studied in France and Italy, painting landscapes he exhibited in Topeka.
In 1924, Adams followed Dasburg's advice, settling in Taos with an introduction to painter Walter Ufer. He became the youngest and last member of the Taos Society of Artists, but he was more than a duplicate of the original members' emphasis on the romantic Indian. Adams was contemporary realist, influenced by Dasburg and working in the tradition of Rivera and Orozco.
Technically conservative, Adams was nevertheless concerned with the daily lives of his agrarian neighbors. In 1929, Adams began teaching at the U of New Mexico in Taos. The dominant subjects in his work became the Spanish Americans and landscapes. On one of his visits to Taos in the late twenties B.J.O. Nordfeldt admired certain of Adams' drawings and suggested they would make fine lithographic prints. He gave Adams several zinc plates and some crayons and Adams began creating many Modernist lithographs using New Mexico as his muse.
In 1938, he moved to Albuquerque because he was awarded a Carnegie Corporation Grant to become the first artist-in-residence at the University of New Mexico. He taught there for the next twenty-five years until 1963, becoming a full professor. In 1938, he was also elected an Associate Member of the National Academy of Design in New York and a full member in 1961.
Kenneth Miller Adams died in Albuquerque, New Mexico on June 27, 1965.