Rubel Phillips

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Rubel Lex Phillips, Sr.
Mississippi Public Service Commissioner
In office
Succeeded by Thomas Hal Phillips
Personal details
Born (1925-03-29)March 29, 1925
Kossuth, Alcorn County
Mississippi, U.S.
Died June 18, 2011(2011-06-18) (aged 86)
Madison County
Resting place Shiloh Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Alcorn County
Political party Democrat-turned-Republican
GOP gubernatorial nominee, 1963 and 1967
Spouse(s) Margaret James Phillips (married ca. 1955–2011, his death)
Children Rubel Phillips, Jr.
Dr. William James Phillips
Residence Jackson, Hinds County
Alma mater Millsaps College

University of Mississippi School of Law

Downing College of Cambridge University
Profession Attorney
Religion Baptist
Military service
Service/branch United States Navy
Rank Commander
Battles/wars World War II

Rubel Lex Phillips, Sr. (March 29, 1925 – June 18, 2011[1]) was an attorney, businessman, and politician from the U.S. state of Mississippi best known for his Republican gubernatorial campaigns waged in 1963 and 1967.[2]

Previously, as a Democrat, Phillips was a circuit court clerk in Alcorn County in northeastern Mississippi and a member and chairman of the Mississippi Public Service Commission from 1956 to 1959. By 1963, he had switched parties to become only the third Republican since 1877 to seek his state's governorship. Phillips ran on the slogan of "K.O. the Kennedys",[3] even though he had backed U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy for the presidency in 1960 over the Republican Vice President Richard M. Nixon. Phillips, with 38 percent of the ballots cast, lost to Democrat Paul B. Johnson, Jr., the son of a former governor. That election was held barely two weeks prior to the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas, Texas.

In 1967, Phillips ran as a moderate Republican but lost decisively to the conservative Democrat John Bell Williams, a U.S. representative.


Phillips was born to William T. Phillips and the former Ollie Fare in the village of Kossuth near Corinth, the seat of Alcorn County in the northeastern corner of the state. He graduated in 1943 from Alcorn Agricultural High School in Kossuth. Thereafter, he enlisted in the United States Navy in which he served for four years in the Pacific Theatre of World War II and, then, with the post-war occupation. Phillips also retained a commission in the Navy Reserve, from which he retired at the rank of commander in 1963.[4]

He graduated, first, from Millsaps College, a United Methodist liberal arts institution in Jackson, Mississippi, and, then, the University of Mississippi School of Law in Oxford. In 1956, Phillips was named an "Outstanding Alumnus" of Millsaps College. In 1959, he and later Lieutenant Governor Charles L. Sullivan were named among the "Outstanding Young Men of the Year" by the Mississippi Jaycees. He was formerly active in Kiwanis International.[4]

In 1958, he entered the private practice of law in Jackson with the firm Overstreet, Kuykendall, Perry and Phillips. He was subsequently a senior partner in the reorganized firm, Perry, Phillips, Crockett and Morrison. From 1979 until 1990, Phillips was retained as a consultant and attorney for Mobile Communications Corporation of America, later MobileComm, a subsidiary of BellSouth. In 1993, he was accepted into the Master of Laws program at Cambridge University's Downing College in Cambridge, England.[4]

Formerly a member of the First Baptist Church of Jackson, Mississippi, Phillips later was among five founding members of Northminster Baptist Church, where he was the first chairman of the deacon board and taught the men's Sunday School class. He was a fundraiser for his alma mater, Millsaps College and the St. Andrew's Episcopal School, also located in Jackson.[4]

Switching to the GOP

Though Phillips had endorsed Adlai E. Stevenson for president in 1956 against the Republican incumbent Dwight D. Eisenhower and Kennedy over Nixon in 1960, he left the Democrats in 1963 to run for governor as the Republican nominee in a bid to succeed the term-limited Ross Barnett, who had fought the desegregation in 1962 of the University of Mississippi. Phillips faced the Democratic nominee Paul Johnson, who was nearly as outspoken in defense of conservative politics as his predecessor Barnett.[5]

Bidwell Adam, a former lieutenant governor under Governor Theodore Gilmore Bilbo and the Democratic state chairman in Mississippi at the time, said that Phillips had contacted him in 1962 to seek backing for a potential Democratic campaign for governor.[6] Paul Johnson then claimed that Phillips had become "an overnight Republican" after failure to acquire financial support in a primary with a large open field. Johnson said that Phillips had been "anointed by Squirt Yerger in a Jackson hotel room," a reference to Republican chairman Wirt Adams Yerger, Jr., who served from 1956 to 1966.[7] the first such candidate since 1947, when a former governor of Nebraska, George L. Sheldon, polled 2.5 percent of the Mississippi gubernatorial general election vote.[8]

Johnson and Adam questioned the new Republican's dedication to conservatism by noting that as the clerk of Alcorn County from 1952 to 1956 Phillips had supervised the registration of more black voters than had been permitted in most other Mississippi counties at that time.[9] The pair stressed Phillips' support for Adlai Stevenson in 1956 and Kennedy in 1960. They too had also backed Stevenson over Eisenhower but supported the unpledged electors which carried Mississippi (and half of Alabama) in 1960 over the Kennedy and Nixon electoral slates.[10]

Johnson and Adam uncovered a 1956 memorandum in which Phillips declared that Adlai Stevenson was :

the only hope for the South. Although he is considered by many a moderate, that is at least a step in the right direction by us. It is my view that those of us who are taking a moderate course in respect to all social legislation will be recognized ten years from now as having taken the only practical course for people who believe in progressive government.

It is essential that intelligent and cool-thinking people remain in office even though it occasionally means that they have to give tacit support to measures they do not believe to be sound. There will be times that I, as chairman of the Public Service Commission, will have to take positions that I do not believe to be either sound or right, but if I sacrifice whatever opportunities I may have to do something important in the future for a point of minor significance, then I will have been of benefit to no one. That is a painful admission for anyone in public office. ... nevertheless, if we are ambitious, we have to make it."[11]

Chairman Adam warned Democratic officeholders prophetically that a strong GOP showing in 1963 would encourage Republicans to contest future races on a regular basis and could in time threaten the state's solidly Democratic congressional delegation. Adam also accused Phillips and his running-mate for lieutenant governor, State Senator Stanford E. Morse, Jr., of Gulfport, another Democrat-turned-Republican, of having confused voters by omitting the word "Republican" from their campaign materials.[12]

Racial politics

With his "K.O. the Kennedys" slogan, Phillips attempted to present himself as a more determined segregationist than his rival, Paul Johnson. In a statewide television broadcast, Phillips said that he had concluded that only Republicans could offer a realistic challenge to the national Democrats.[13] Phillips' segregationist views were confirmed by the historian James W. Silver of the University of Mississippi, who quoted the Republican candidate as having told students in 1962 that the Kennedy administration was being "run by incompetents and communist sympathizers."[14] Silver added that Phillips had called United States Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy "a little juvenile" who had "declared war on Mississippi, and he will demand unconditional surrender."[15]

In Meadville, Phillips remarked, "I was born a segregationist, I am for segregation now, and I will be for segregation when I die."[16] Phillips said that opponents who branded him a "closet integrationist" were deceptive: "noting could be further from the truth."[17] Phillips said "the one-party system ... gave us John and Bobby Kennedy and the integration of our state's university."[18] Phillips accused outgoing Governor Barnett and Democratic opponent Paul Johnson of "rooster fighting with U.S. martshals" in the 1962 desegregation crisis, which ended in the enrollment of James Meredith as the first African American student and subsequent Ole Miss graduate. Phillips said that Barnett and Johnson had merely tricked voters by staging their opposition to desegregation and that Johnson was the "Kennedy candidate" in the race.[19]

Until the 1960s, Mississippians had known no alternative to segregation, and many linked the separation of the races to the Bible. Governor Barnett, like Phillips a Baptist Sunday school teacher, declared "The Good Lord was the original segregationist. He put the black man in Africa. ... He made us white because he wanted us white, and He intended that we should stay that way."[20] Barnett said that Mississippi had the largest percent of African Americans because "they love our way of life here, and that way is segregation."[21]

Two-party political dissent

In its endorsement of Paul Johnson, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger urged voters "not to play with fire" and ignite the birth of a two-party system, which would lead to a political division among whites along partisan and economic lines.[22] Johnson called the two-party concept "a political rendezvous with death."[23] At a pre-election rally in Jackson, Barnett urged Mississippi Democrats to "push out this Republican threat" and added that he was "fed up with these fence-riding, pussy-footing, snow-digging Yankee Republicans."[24]

The Hattiesburg American echoed the Democratic contention that the primary beneficiaries of a two-party system would be the then "920,000 Negroes who dwell here."[25] The American denounced Republican leaders Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona and Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York, rivals for the party's 1964 presidential nomination, for their common membership in the National Urban League and the NAACP. The American also criticized then freshman U.S. Representative Robert Taft, Jr., son of the late conservative U.S. Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio, for having remarked that "no segregationist belongs on a Republican ticket or even in the party."[26] An advertisement carried in the Jackson Daily News linked white Republicans with "modern scalawags," a reference to southern whites who cooperated with carpetbaggers during Reconstruction."[27]

Phillips defended the two-party format on the grounds that competition can produce excellence and questioned how competitive general elections would be "dangerous" because white voters had for years been divided in contentious Democratic primary runoff elections.[28] Phillips stressed that in the 1850s, when Mississippi Democrats faced competition from Whigs, the state ranked fifth nationally in per capita income. Like Johnson, Phillips felt compelled to denounce the Radical Reconstruction policies of the 1860s and 1870s.[23]

Gil Carmichael, a Meridian businessman who managed Phillips' 1963 campaign in Lauderdale County and was later the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in 1972 against James Eastland and then for governor in 1975 and 1979, said in a civic club debate that he found it:

peculiar to defend something I have always taken for granted ... Who, a few years ago, would have thought it possible to have reached the point ... where it is necessary to defend the human right to a choice? ... I fear that the state Democratic Party is unwittingly being used as a tool for the same goals of the national party. ... Today, the majority of whites of this state are not one-party Democrats but true independents -- and they are glad that there is the beginning of a second party -- so they can have a real choice.[29]

The Vicksburg Evening Post in Vicksburg in Warren County deplored the campaign invective and claimed that "demagoguery is replacing logic, and that appeals to passion and prejudice far outweight any effort to discuss intelligently the problems and future of our state."[30]

The Greenville Delta Democrat-Times, then published by Hodding Carter, II, a Kennedy supporter but a critic of the state Democratic Party, endorsed Phillips:

Democrats see clearly that the Republican Party, once it gains power in Mississippi, will offer the kind of effective outlet for the feelings of most Mississippians that the isolated state Democrats (who renounce any connection with the national party) can never hope to produce. All that the state Democratic Party can offer is another four years of frustrated political impotence in national affairs and a never-never land existence within the state's borders.[31]

The New York Times concluded that Phillips' potential for an upset rested with "an unlikely coalition of Goldwater Republicans and Democrats who range in viewpoint from middle-of-the-road to liberal."[32] The state AFL-CIO, then with some fifty thousand members, endorsed Phillips despite his support of the Mississippi right-to-work law. Labor president Claude E. Ramsay of Pascagoula denounced the Barnett-Johnson administration as "the most corrupt and irresponsible in the state's history" and supported Phillips' proposed educational reform, civil service merit system, and opposition to an increase in the state sales tax.[33] Johnson said he was not disturbed by Ramsay's "false prophet" endorsement: "Everyone has known Ramsay to have a tendency toward integration."[34]

Several moderate Democrats endorsed Phillips, many of whom had supported former Governor James P. Coleman, Barnett's predecessor in the office, and a loser to Paul Johnson in an attempted comeback in the 1963 Democratic primary. When Phillips resigned from the Public Service Commission in 1959, Coleman appointed Phillips' older brother, the author Thomas Hal Phillips, to the remaining portion of the term.[35] Hal Phillips was his brother's gubernatorial campaign manager in the 1963 election.

1963 campaign activities

Both candidates used country musicians in their campaigns. Phillips declared himself a "redneck", and the Republicans sang to the tune of "Reuben, Reuben", the refrain, "Rubel, Rubel, We're all rebels, Fighting for our native land, Against the Kennedy carpetbaggers, Bobby, Jack, and all the clan."[32] The Democrats used a song composed by Houston Davis of Jackson: "Rubel, Rubel, little Rubel, Poor misguided Democrat, when it comes to the final test, The GOP will leave you flat. ..."[36]

Phillips said he spent $500,000 on the first gubernatorial campaign.[37] Democrats claimed that the New York City investment banker Nelson Trimble Levings, who owned a plantation in Mississippi and had opposed Senator Bilbo in the 1946 Democratic primary, was dispatching Rockefeller cash to Phillips, a point the GOP denied.[22]

Johnson carried the backing of the Mississippi Municipal Association, which consisted of most of the state's Democratic mayors. That endorsement prompted Phillips to cancel a scheduled appearance before the group.[38]

Johnson refused to debate Phillips and expressed irritation over the fact that he was the first Democrat nominee since 1947 to have Republican opposition. Carroll Gartin, the former lieutenant governor seeking to regain the position on Johnson's ticket, declared Phillips' candidacy "a great disservice" to the state because "everyone had a chance to run as a Democrat."[39] The Jackson Daily News similarly declared it a "nuisance" to hold a general election after two all-encompassing Democratic primaries.[40]

In Water Valley in Yalobusha County in northern Mississippi, Phillips challenged Johnson's proposal to change election laws, suggesting that his rival would create "a dictatorship ... so Republicans and Independents cannot run for office."[32] Unlike in neighboring Louisiana, which in 1975 abolished one of the three elections in the cycle, the Mississippi legislature never revised the state's election law. Some had argued that such a change might hamper efforts to recruit northern industries into the South.[41]

The gubernatorial contest was a prelude to the 1964 national election in Mississippi. Paul Johnson at first, in an appearance in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, endorsed "free electors" for 1964, a move strongly opposed by Republicans. I. Lee Potter of Arlington, Virginia, chairman of the GOP's "Operation Dixie" said, "The South has been that route before. It didn't work, can't work."[42] Ultimately, Governor Paul Johnson endorsed Goldwater over Lyndon B. Johnson, but he was critical of the Republican Party in making the selection. Bidwell Adam called Goldwater "a true Republican where the dollar is involved" but not really "a conservative as to the social revolutions being forced by judicial edicts and bayonets at the hands of ruthless dictatorships."[43] Goldwater's position on the Tennessee Valley Authority, which serves northeastern Mississippi, prompted Phillips to distance himself from the senator on that issue.[44] Formerly known as "the young firebrand from the Gulf Coast," Adam was elected lieutenant governor in 1927 at the age of thirty-three. Wirt Yerger recalled him in later years as "an old-line, redneck Democrat who literally hated Republicans or the thought of any Republican in public office."[45] Still Adam endorsed Goldwater in 1964 and Nixon in 1972.[46]

Bidwell Adam declared that Paul Johnson "towers like the giants of the forest above the man (Phillips) who is grazing in the pastures of filth." He predicted voters would give Phillips "the brass ring of political ingratitude that he so richly deserves" and claimed that Phillips would be "buried in a political boneyard of forgotten men."[47] Phillips later recalled that he and Adam "buried the hatchet and became warm friends" after that campaign when they worked together on the same side in a lawsuit.[48]

The campaign featured an exchange between GOP chairman Yerger and Senator James Eastland, who missed nearly thirty roll call votes while in Mississippi to campaign for Paul Johnson. In 1966, Wirt Yerger resigned as GOP chairman and considered challenging Eastland until U.S. Representative Prentiss Walker of Mize entered the race. Years later, Yerger said that Walker's decision to relinquish his House seat after one term for the vagaries of a Senate race was "very devastating" to the growth of the Mississippi GOP.[49]

In Parchman in Sunflower County, Phillips declared the Mississippi State Penitentiary "a disgrace" and called for a constitutional board "free of politics to exercise responsible leadership" at the institution then known for brutal practices. Phillips recounted the case of inmate Kimble Berry, serving time for manslaughter who was granted leave in 1961 by acting Governor Johnson but showed up in a Cadillac in Massachusetts claiming that he had been authorized to recover burglary loot.[50]

1963 election results

In a 64 percent turnout, Johnson defeated Phillips, 225,456 votes (62 percent) to 138,515 (38 percent). Gartin received 258,857 (74 percent) to Stanford Morse's 90,948 (26 percent) in the race for lieutenant governor. Phillips carried seven counties, ranging from Washington (61 percent) to Jones (50.6 percent). Phillips received 53 percent in Harrison County and 44.7 percent in both his native Alcorn and in Hinds County, which includes the capital city of Jackson, where he spent the major part of his life.[51]

The Clarion-Ledger declared prematurely that "the handwriting is plain for all to see -- the Magnolia State wants nothing to do with the two-party system."[52] Ungracious in victory, Adam telegraphed Yerger that since the GOP had been "electrocuted, will you please advise the date and place you will deliver the funeral oration?"[53] Phillips in defeat said his new party had "lost a battle ... we have not lost the war. We now know that we have a strong two-party system."[54] Years later, chairman Wirt Yerger said that Phillips might have run stronger had he endorsed legalized liquor sales. A 1963 poll found that 75 percent of Mississippi voters wanted to end statewide prohibition, something not achieved until 1966. Mississippi was the last state with prohibition. Yerger said that the validity of the survey was unclear.[55]

Three Republicans were elected to full legislative terms in 1963 to the state legislature: Representatives Lewis Leslie McAllister, Jr., a businessman from Meridian who had first won a special election in 1962, and attorney Charles K. Pringle of Biloxi, and State Senator Seelig Wise[56] of Clarksdale, who represented Coahoma, Tunica, and Quitman counties.[57]

The Greenville Delta Democrat-Times urged Republicans to run candidates in all future elections. "Within the next decade, the Republicans ... will be on par with the Democrats. When that day arrives, the GOP will look back on this election as the real starting point."[58] The paper claimed that Phillips faced the opposition of "virtually every Democratic officeholder as well as the crushing weight of the state's one-party tradition. In the face of these odds, the showing was even more amazing."[59]

Goldwater's 87 percent victory in Mississippi, accomplished the year prior to passage of the Voting Rights Act, was accompanied by the upset victory of Prentiss Walker to Congress. In 1965, Republicans won mayoral positions in Hattiesburg and Columbus and lost narrowly in Laurel and Clarksdale.[60] The gains from 1964 and 1965 were halted in 1966 and 1967. The Democrat G. V. "Sonny" Montgomery reclaimed Walker's House seat and held it for thirty years. Phillips ran again for governor in 1967 as a moderate candidate against the more conservative Democratic nominee John Bell Williams, who along with Albert W. Watson of South Carolina had been stripped of congressional seniority in 1965 for having endorsed Goldwater for president. Williams specifically was denied the chairmanship of the House Interstate and Foreign Affairs Committee.[61]

Phillips opposed the since ended two-year residency requirement for voter registration, the longest of any state in the nation, having claimed that the rule was an impediment to industrial development. Phillips proposed a freeze on state employment, but Williams countered that such a move would limit the opportunities of young people.[62]

Some four months after Phillips' defeat, Louisiana Republican figure Charlton Lyons of Shreveport waged a similar campaign with nearly equal results in his state against the successful Democratic gubernatorial nominee, John J. McKeithen of Columbia, Louisiana.

1967 campaign

In his race against Williams, Phillips had no running-mate. His previous nominee for lieutenant governor, Stanford Morse, endorsed Williams. Phillips later said that the GOP did not at the time realize the importance of offering full candidate slates.[63] The unopposed Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, Charles L. Sullivan of Clarksdale, had defeated in his party's primary Governor Paul Johnson, who ran in 1967 for his former post of lieutenant governor. At the time Mississippi governors could not succeed themselves but could sit out a term and enter the next race four years later.[64] Sullivan earlier said that he could work with either Phillips or Williams, but he endorsed the Democratic nominee, having verbally sparred with Phillips at a meeting in Biloxi of the Mississippi Manufacturing Association.[65]

Clarke Reed of Greenville, who succeeded Yerger as state chairman in 1966, recalled that Phillips did not wish to run for governor again in 1967 but was persuaded to do so my party leaders in need of a candidate though there was little expectation of success.[66] For his second race, Phillips shed his past segregationist image and ran to the middle, as had Williams' unsuccessful primary opponent, state Treasurer William F. Winter, who ultimately won the governorship in 1979. Time magazine called Phillips "an erstwhile segregationist who this year appealed for an end to the racial rancor."[67] Phillips later said that his moderate stance hurt the Republicans at that time but that the party since "benefited from the things we did."[68]

In a television address, Phillips reaffirmed his belief in segregation but spoke in conciliatory language toward African Americans:

The influence of race ... is so dominant that it is utterly unrealistic to expect any significant progress in such vital fields as education, economic development, and federal-state relations until we have brought the race issue out into the open and begun, at least begun, to deal with it effectively. ... I advocate spending money to develop our underdeveloped human resources ... with the expectation of getting all that money back ... With God's held and your help, I will bring peace and harmony and material progress to Mississippi.[69]

The Meridian Star charged that Phillips had "made it plain that he is no conservative. He is a member of the Republican Party, not just here ... but at the national level."[70] The Clarion-Ledger judged Phillips' in his second race as "a weak candidate with a weak pitch" and termed his prospects as virtually "hopeless."[71]

Phillips took other heretical positions, having urged a "long-range master plan for education" and the reinstatement of compulsory attendance, which had been repealed in 1958.[72] Phillips questioned the need of the Mississippi Milk Commission, which he said kept the price of milk artificially too high.[73]

Presidential politics played some role in the 1967 campaign, as Williams stressed his friendship with George C. Wallace of Alabama, who was preparing for an independent candidacy in 1968. Phillips countered that only a Republican, perhaps Nixon or Governor Ronald Wilson Reagan of California, could defeat a national Democratic presidential nominee. Reagan cut a campaign commercial for Phillips; Maureen Reagan made some twenty appearances on Phillips' behalf at various places in the state.[74] Neighboring Governor Winthrop Rockefeller of Arkansas, younger brother of Nelson Rockefeller, spoke in Corinth and assisted Phillips in fundraising. Phillips raised $300,000 in the 1967 race.[75]

Williams rejected Phillips' pleas for debates, as had Paul Johnson in 1963. In fact, the congressman spent few days on the general election campaign trail and urged friends "to do the campaigning for me."[76] Williams, who had lost the lower part of his left arm while service in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II, was hospitalized during the campaign with a leg ailment, which also stemmed from war injuries.[77] At a $40 per person fundraiser attended by some five thousand and hosted by the state's congressional delegation, Williams vowed to "destroy that Republican crowd so bad that they won't be able to find a Rubel in the rubble."[78]

Phillips obtained the endorsement of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which sent a rival delegation to the 1964 national party convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, but he repudiated the support of that group.[79] The Freedom Democrats backed Phillips because he had expressed doubts that Williams as governor would be able to fight the desegregation policies of the then United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare.[80]

As in 1963, the Greenville Delta Democrat-Times endorsed Phillips, having hailed his racial-moderation speech as "frank, honest, courageous ... the unvarnished truth."[81] The paper claimed that Phillips had abandoned the earlier GOP efforts to "out-Dixiecrat the Dixiecrats," a reference to Strom Thurmond's 1948 presidential campaign.[81] An unidentified Republican told U.S. News and World Report that the GOP had "thrown off the tag of being a racist, segregationist party in the South." [82]

1967 election results

Phillips was rudely treated during his appearance at the Tri-State Fair in Greenville[83] even though Washington County gave him his best vote in the state in both 1963 (61 percent) and 1967 (49.7 percent). Overall, Phillips received only 133,379 votes (29.7 percent), 5,136 fewer than in 1963. Williams polled 315,38 votes.[84] One Republican told Time magazine that the results had halted Republican growth in Mississippi by probably fifteen years.[85] The GOP lost its three seats in the Mississippi legislature. Republican Representative Lewis McAllister, Jr., was among those defeated though he polled a majority within the boundaries of his former Meridian-based district. Two others who lost were State Senator Seelig Wise and Representative Charles Pringle. A rare Republican victory was the election of Roy Fulton as a supervisor in Washington County. Even the Republican coroner in Hinds County, Dr. Thomas Davis, was swept from office in the Williams landslide. Phillips wired Williams to offer congratulations and support for what he called the new governor's "every progressive endeavor."[86]

The Mississippi GOP slowly rebounded from Phillips' defeat. Five years later in 1972, two Republicans, Thad Cochran and Trent Lott, were elected to the U.S. House and both eventually became influential U.S. senators as well. Senator Lott was succeeded by another Republican still in office, Roger Wicker. The GOP did not offer a gubernatorial candidate in 1971 but has done so in all elections since 1975. The party nominee did not prevail until 1991, with the victory of the late Kirk Fordice. Since Fordice's two terms, Haley Barbour has also served two terms as governor. In 2012, a third Republican, Phil Bryant, assumed the office. In the 2011 elections, Republicans also won control of both houses of the legislature, advances unimaginable at the time of Rubel Phillips' second gubernatorial defeat.[87]

Legal troubles

Phillips did not again seek public office but remained a long-term financial backer of the Mississippi GOP. He subsequently became an officer of the Stirling Homex Corporation, which manufactured housing modules and sought to locate a plant in Harrison County.[88] The New York-based firm went bankrupt in 1972. Phillips and four other company officers were indicted and tried on charges of conspiracy and fraud in the sale of $40 million worth of stock. Four of the officers, including Phillips, were found guilty of falsely inflating earnings reports and deceiving investors, auditors, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.[89] Phillips was fined $5,000 and received a ten-month sentence imposed by Judge Marvin E. Frankel.[90] In 1978, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear appeals by the defendants and left intact their fines and sentences.[91] In 1980, Phillips was disbarred by the Mississippi Supreme Court, which rejected a suspension as proposed in 1979 by a special state bar tribunal.[92] Phillips was permitted to seek reinstatement to the bar in September 1982 and thereafter resumed the practice of corporate law in Jackson.[93]


Phillips's two gubernatorial campaigns breathed new life into a previously moribund state Republican Party, which had settled for meager federal patronage available when a Republican occupied the White House. Phillips also fired the first ammunition which would make the general election, rather than the Democratic runoff primary, the principal contest in his state. He also showed that a Republican could obtain black support though there were relatively few African American voters in Mississippi during his time in the political spotlight.[citation needed] The Greenville Delta Democrat-Times wrote that:

...History will record in the general election campaign of 1967 as the moment when the old order's death knell was finally sounded in clear, loud tones within the state's borders. It will be to Rubel Phillips' eternal credit that he was the man who tolled that knell.[94]

Canton attorney Jim Herring, a former state chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party, attended the second annual Pioneer Dinner of the Mississippi GOP, held in Jackson in 2010. He paid tribute to Phillips, who was too ill to attend the affair:

Rubel was a true pioneer of the Mississippi Republican Party. He was the first to 'step up' in his race for governor and publicly put his economic interests and his reputation on the line for a cause greater then [sic] himself. He was and is a great man, who has to this day remained active in the Mississippi Republican Party. We Mississippi Republicans owe him, and we owe him big.[95]

Phillips died in retirement at the age of eighty-six in Ridgeland in Madison County near Jackson, some five months before his party in 2011 swept most statewide elections and won majorities in the legislature. He was survived by his wife, the former Margaret James, whom he married about 1955; two sons, Rubel Phillips, Jr., and wife Melinda of Virginia, and Dr. William James Phillips and wife Alison of Jackson, Mississippi; two granddaughters, and two brothers, William Maurice Phillips and wife Joan of Corinth, Mississippi and Frank Price Phillips of Memphis, Tennessee. Services were held on June 22, 2011, in Jackson at the Northminster Baptist Church. Interment was at the Shiloh Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Alcorn County.[4]


  1. "Social Security Death Index". Retrieved December 8, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Rubel Phillips Obituary: View Rubel Phillips's Obituary by Clarion Ledger". Retrieved 2011-12-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "K.O. The Kennedys! The 1963 Rubel Phillips Campaign in Mississippi". Retrieved November 1, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Rubel Phillips obituary, Jackson Clarion-Ledger, June 20, 2011
  5. Billy Hathorn, "Challenging the Status Quo: Rubel Lex Phillips and the Mississippi Republican Party (1963-1967)", The Journal of Mississippi History XLVII, November 1985, No. 4, pp. 240-242
  6. Hattiesburg American, October 16, 1963; Jackson Clarion-Ledger, October 24, 1963
  7. Jackson Clarion-Ledger, October 16, 24, 1963; The Meridian Star, October 9, 1963
  8. State of Mississippi, Election Statistics, 1947
  9. Hattiesburg American, November 4, 1963
  10. Hattiesburg American, October 16 and November 4, 1963
  11. Memorandum from Rubel Phillips on Public Service Commission stationery, March 1, 1956, reprinted in Jackson Clarion-Ledger, October 15, 1963
  12. Memphis Commercial Appeal, October 11, 16, 1963; The New York Times, October 26, 1963
  13. Memphis Commercial Appeal, October 3, 1963
  14. James W. Silver, Mississippi: The Closed Society (New York, 1966), p. 45
  15. Silver, p. 45
  16. Memphis Commercial Appeal, October 17, 1963; Jackson Clarion-Ledger, October 22, 1963
  17. Memphis Commercial Appeal, October 22, 1963
  18. Biloxi-Gulfport Daily Herald (since the Sun Herald), September 3, 1963; Hattiesburg American, October 4, 1963
  19. Memphis Commercial Appeal, September 7, 1963
  20. Memphis Commercial Appeal, September 12, 1963
  21. Jackson Clarion-Ledger, September 25, 1963; Silver, The Closed Society, pp. 273-274
  22. 22.0 22.1 Jackson Clarion-Ledger, November 4, 1963
  23. 23.0 23.1 Jackson Clarion-Ledger, October 16, 1963
  24. Hattiesburg American, October 16, 1963; Time magazine, October 25, 1963, p. 29
  25. Hattiesburg American, October 7, 1963
  26. Hattiesburg American, October 24, 1963
  27. Jackson Daily News, October 15, 1963
  28. Jackson Daily News, October 18, 1963; Biloxi-Gulfport Daily Herald, September 20, 1963
  29. Meridian Star, October 1, 1963
  30. Vicksburg Evening Post, October 21, 1963
  31. Greenville Delta Democrat-Times, September 5, 1963
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 The New York Times, October 26, 1963
  33. Jackson Clarion-Ledger, October 28, 1963; Gary M. Fink, ed., Biographical Directory of U.S. Labor Leaders (Westport, Connecticut, 1974), pp. 297-298; The New York Times, October 26, 1963
  34. Jackson Clarion-Leger, October 28, 1963; Biloxi-Gulfport Daily Herald, October 30, 1963
  35. Jackson Clarion-Ledger, October 22, 1963; The New York Times, October 26, 1963
  36. Jackson Clarion-Ledger, October 24, 1963
  37. "Challenging the Status Quo", p. 202
  38. Greenville Delta Democrat-Times, September 12, 1963; Biloxi-Gulfport Daily Herald, September 4, 11, 1963; The New York Times, October 26, 1963
  39. Hattiesburg American, October 9, 1963
  40. Jackson Daily News, October 16, 1963
  41. Jackson Clarion-Ledger, October 28, 1967; The New York Times, April 12 and May 10 14, 1964
  42. Memphis Commercial Appeal, October 6, 1963
  43. Jackson Clarion-Ledger, October 28, 1963
  44. The New York Times, November 5, 1963
  45. Challenging the Status Quo", p. 255
  46. Challenging the Status Quo", p. 255
  47. Jackson Clarion-Ledger, October 31, 1963
  48. "Challenging the Status Quo," p. 255
  49. "Challenging the Status Quo", p. 256
  50. Memphis Commercial Appeal, October 24, 1963; Meridian Star, October 11, 1963
  51. State of Mississippi, Election Statistics, 1963
  52. Jackson Clarion-Ledger, November 7, 1963
  53. Hattiesburg American, November 6, 1963
  54. Hattiesburg American, November 6, 1963; U.S. News and World Report, November 18, 1963, p. 46
  55. "Challenging the Status Quo," p. 257
  56. "Challenging the Status Quo", p. 242, 262
  57. "Seelig Bartel "Bushie" Wise, September 7, 2004". Clarksdale Press Register. Retrieved May 10, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  58. Greenville Delta Democrat-Times, November 4, 1963
  59. Greenville Delta Democrat-Times, November 6, 1963
  60. The New York Times, June 9, 10, 1965
  61. Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, XXV (October 20, 1967), pp. 2140-2141
  62. Jackson Daily News, October 17, 31, 1967; Hattiesburg American, November 4, 1967
  63. "Challenging the Status Quo," p. 258
  64. "Challenging the Status Quo", p. 259
  65. Greenville Delta Democrat-Times, October 15, 26, 1967
  66. "Interview with Clarke Reed". Retrieved May 12, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  67. Time, XC (November 17, 1967), p. 29
  68. "Challenging the Status Quo", p. 259
  69. Biloxi-Gulfport Daily Herald, October 4, 1967
  70. Meridian Star, October 13, 1967
  71. Jackson Clarion-Ledger, October 18, 1967
  72. Meridian Star, October 17, 1963; estimates were that 84,000 pupils were not attending school in Mississippi in 1967.
  73. Hattiesburg American, October 10, 1967
  74. Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, XXV (November 10, 1967), pp. 2295-2296; Vicksburg Evening Post, September 23, 1967
  75. Hattiesburg American, November 1, 1967
  76. Jackson Daily News, October 25, 28, 1967; Jackson Clarion-Ledger, October 28, 1967
  77. Vicksburg Evening Post, October 25, 1963
  78. Jackson Clarion-Ledger, October 31, 1967
  79. Jackson Clarion-Leger, October 28, 1967
  80. U.S. News and World Report, LXII (November 20, 1967), p. 35
  81. 81.0 81.1 Greenville Delta Democrat-Times, November 5, 1967
  82. U.S. News and World Report, November 20, 1967, p. 35
  83. Greenville Delta Democrat-Times, October 5, 1967
  84. State of Mississippi, Election Statistics, 1967
  85. Time, November 17, 1967, p. 29
  86. Challenging the Status Quo," p. 262
  87. "Editorial: "How Times Have Changed"". Retrieved December 1, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  88. The New York Times, January 30, 1977; Jackson Clarion-Ledger, April 3, 1980
  89. Facts on File, XXXVII (February 12, 1977), p. 751; The New York Times, January 30, 1977
  90. The New York Times, March 12, 1977; Facts on File, XXXVII (March 19, 1977), p. 203; Jackson Clarion-Ledger, April 3, 1980
  91. Facts on File, XXXVIII (October 6, 1978), p. 751
  92. Jackson Clarion-Ledger, April 3, 1980
  93. Jackson Clarion-Leger, May 15, 1980; Challenging the Status Quo," p. 263
  94. Greenville Delta Democrat-Times, October 5, 1967; this assessment was made a month before the general election in which Phillips polled less than 30 percent of the ballots cast.
  95. "Rubel Phillips, Gil Carmichael and Jack Reed". Retrieved December 2, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Preceded by
George L. Sheldon (1947)
Republican nominee for governor of Mississippi

Rubel Lex Phillips, Sr.

Succeeded by
Gil Carmichael (1975)