Adolph Freeman Holmer was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1917. He graduated from high school in Fargo, North Dakota. He attended Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and earned a bachelor's degree in history and political science in 1939. He then came to Eugene, Oregon, where his family had moved some years earlier, and he studied at the University of Oregon. While a graduate student, he met Marcia Kathleen (her surname prior to marriage is unknown). They married in 1942 and later had two children. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II. After his discharge in 1945, he completed his master's degree at the University of Oregon in 1946, then pursued a doctorate at Columbia University in New York City, but never completed his dissertation. Instead, he returned to Eugene in 1949 to accept a position as professor of political science at Willamette University, where he taught until 1959. It was during his tenure at Willamette that he met Mark Hatfield. Holmer held numerous governmental positions in Oregon, including director of elections from 1957 to 1959 and director of the Department of Finance and Administration from 1959 to 1966. He was also Wisconsin's director of environmental protection from 1966 to 1968. He then returned to Oregon, where he served as vice chancellor of the state System of Higher Education, based in Eugene. He served on the Eugene City Council from 1983 to 1991. He died in 2009.