Mike Adams was found dead in his home Thursday during a welfare call, according to ABC-affiliate WWAY.
Deputies said Adams had not been seen or heard for a few days. After gaining entry, New Hanover deputies said Adams was found shot in a bedroom.
The medical examiner has confirmed Adams' death as a suicide, New Hanover Sheriff's Office told WWAY.
Adams, who taught sociology and criminology at the university, retired early after backlash from a racially charged social media post in which he called Gov. Roy Cooper "Massa Cooper."
After the controversy, UNC-Wilmington said it faced three options: Keep Adams as a faculty member, fire him six years after he won a $700,000 First Amendment lawsuit against the school, or see if he would retire.
Adams decided to retire. He agreed to retire August 1 and the university agreed to give him a $504,702 settlement for lost salary and lost retirement benefits.
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In late May, Adams tweeted that he dined with six men at a six-seat table and "felt like a free man who was not living in the slave state of North Carolina." He then wrote: "Massa Cooper, let my people go!" He announced his retirement in June after a petition calling for his firing received more than 60,000 signatures.
UNCW Division of Academic Affairs issued this message to the college's community:
"It is with sadness that we share the news that the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office is conducting a death investigation involving Dr. Mike Adams, professor of criminology. Please keep his friends and loved ones in your thoughts. Students may call the University Counseling Center (910.962.3746) for grief support; faculty and staff can seek support through the Employee Assistance Program."
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