Barry Phillips made his mark first on the gridiron, then in the community
Langdale, Bazemore, McCrary, Grant, Bennett, Schrorer. These are a few of the Wildcats in the Valdosta-Lowndes County Sports Hall of Fame.
Though there are too many to name individually, one standout is William Barrowman (Barry) Phillips, who made his mark on the gridiron, in the classroom, in his law career and in the Atlanta and state of Georgia civic and educational communities.
Though considered a lightweight tackle at 179 pounds, he was named to the All-State and All-Southern 1945 high school football teams. In fact, no Wildcat was feared more than Phillips.
He had his pick of several colleges but chose the University of Georgia, where he earned a spot on the 1948 ’Dogs team, which enjoyed a 9-2 season and a trip to the Orange Bowl.
Phillips had his heart set on law school, so football took a backseat. He breezed through undergraduate school in three years, attending summer school sessions instead of summer football practice.
But Phillips was too valuable a man to lose, so Coach Wally Butts kept him on scholarship and in the football dorm. In return, Phillips kept a steady eye on players’ grades to make sure they remained scholastically eligible.
Meanwhile, Phillips graduated Phi Beta Kappa and got two years of law school – in the top 10 percent of his class – under his belt before Uncle Sam called. He entered the Air Force as a second lieutenant and came out a first lieutenant after serving two years. He saw combat in Korea and earned an Air Medal for distinguished service while in flight.
He returned to UGA for his final year of law school and then set out to make his mark professionally and in the community. He joined the Kilpatrick & Cody law firm, now Kilpatrick Stockton, and six years later made partner.
Eventually Phillips was named to the Board of Regents of the State University System of Georgia, serving six years, three as vice-chairman and three as chairman. He was named a Trustee of the University of Georgia Foundation. He became chairman of the Board of Visitors of the University Law School.
When Phillips moved his family to Atlanta, he immediately became involved in the community. He accepted a major role in the organization of the Conference of Christian and Jews to foster understanding and good relations between the two faiths. He became a director of Central Atlanta Progress to spur on the growth of downtown Atlanta. He became president of the Atlanta Convention and Business Bureau, helping turn Atlanta into one of the nation’s hottest convention cities.
He played a major role in one of Atlanta’s most memorable moments, helping secure state authority to have Atlanta host the 1996 Olympic Games. He helped organize the Canadian-American Society in time for the Olympic Games, served as official attaché and oversaw housing and feeding of the Canadian athletes.
Phillips retired from his law firm 10 years ago but still maintains an office.
How did Phillips find time to take on job after job? “We find time to do what we want to do,” he says.
Phillips is a role model for new and old lawyers alike.
Says Elliott Levitas, one of Phillips’ senior partners at Kilpatrick Stockton and a former U.S. Congressman, “I worked with Barry for 40 years and he is one of the finest lawyers I have ever known. I have never seen anyone research a case as thoroughly as Phillips does. I know of no one as meticulous.
“He had advantages over opposing lawyers because he never cut any corners. When he was ready for trial, he knew as much about the law pertaining to the case as the judge did.
“When I think of Barry I think of integrity and honesty. He is one of the most honorable men I have ever known.”
Phillips is married to the former Grace Greer. They have four children: Mary Grace, Barry Jr., Greer and Quintin, named for the late University of Georgia assistant football coach Quintin Lumpkin. Barry Jr. is a real estate developer, Greer a landscape architect, Quintin an electrical contractor and Mary Grace a realtor.