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Austin College mourns loss of legendary professor Edward Hake Phillips; leader in development of Sam Rayburn Library and Museum
By Austin College
Aug 18, 2009

SHERMAN, TEXAS—One of Austin College’s most honored professors, Edward Hake Phillips, passed away August 15 after complications caused by a recent fall. A memorial service is planned for Saturday, September 12, at 11 a.m. at Grand Avenue Presbyterian Church in Sherman. Following the service, a luncheon will allow time for the family to greet and visit with Ed’s many friends, colleagues and fellow church members.

Dr. Phillips, who earned his Ph.D. at Harvard, taught at Rice University before joining the Austin College history faculty in 1959 after being recruited by Dr. John D. Moseley. Phillips went on to be one of the leaders in creating a new curriculum and a stronger liberal arts program.

“I took a cut in pay and an increased teaching load because I shared Dr. Moseley’s vision,” he remembered. 

Dr. Phillips retired as professor of history emeritus in 1983. In addition to teaching courses in history of the U.S., he served as chair of the History Department and taught several courses in the Heritage of Western Culture program. After retirement, his dedication to Austin College continued, and in 1988 he published A Short History of Austin College. In 2001 he was honored with the Heywood C. Clemons Volunteer Service Award for sustained service to the College. 

Dr. Phillips became a leader in the development of the Sam Rayburn Library and Museum in Bonham, established by Mr. Rayburn in 1957. Phillips served on the board of directors and conducted extensive research in the Rayburn papers. In 1978, he was a co-author (with H. G. Dulaney and MacPhelan Reese) of Speak, Mr. Speaker, an extensive collection of speeches and other papers of “Mr. Sam,” as Rayburn was known locally. In 1987, Phillips also served as co-editor (with Dulaney) of Impressions of Mr. Sam: A Cartoon Profile. 

In 2008, former students and colleagues of Phillips contributed funds to create an endowment to support an Edward Hake Phillips Scholar for an annual summer internship at the Sam Rayburn Library. When the formal announcement was made last fall at the College’s homecoming festivities, Dulaney, long-time director of the Rayburn Center, praised Dr. Phillips for his many contributions toward making the Center the highly respected institution that it has become. A number of former students also were present to give testimonials and then to visit with their beloved teacher. 

In the 1990s, Phillips began pursuing a new line of research that led to the publication of three scholarly books on the life and times of Dr. Gideon Lincecum, a prominent Texas physician and scientist. With Jerry B. Lincecum and Peggy A. Redshaw, he co-edited Adventures of a Frontier Naturalist (1994), Science on the Texas Frontier (1997), and Gideon Lincecum’s Sword: Civil War Letters from the Texas Home Front (2001). The second book won two major awards: the Ima Hogg Award for Outstanding Achievement in Texas History and the Ottis Locke Award for the best book on East Texas history of 1997. 

Dr. Phillips was born in Hamilton, Ohio, on January 7, 1918, to Thomas L. and Hazel Hake Phillips. He was raised in Cincinnati, and after his maternal grandfather began taking him to Cincinnati Reds baseball games as a regular Sunday activity, he became a devoted baseball fan. He even served as a part-time talent scout for the Cincinnati Reds in the late 1960s and early 1970s, attending North Texas area high school games and reporting on promising players. His interest in sports continued throughout his tenure at Austin College, and he was twice honored (in 1969 and 1983) with the Ellis Lockhart Spirit Award for supporting Austin College teams. Among student athletes, he was known affectionately as “Fast Eddie.” 

In another tribute, the Mason Athletic Complex on the Austin College campus includes The Edward H. Phillips Athletic Administrative Suite, funded in his honor by a former student and senior trustee. In 1978, Dr. Phillips received the highly coveted Homer P. Rainey Award, given by the Austin College Board of Trustees for outstanding service to the College. 

After earning his undergraduate degree in 1940 at the University of Cincinnati, Phillips entered Harvard Business School. Like many others of his generation, he interrupted his education for service in World War II. He enlisted in the Navy, serving at Squantum Field in Massachusetts and Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida. Phillips married Patricia Northridge in 1950 in Boston. After living in Houston while he taught at Rice from 1949 to 1959, they moved to Sherman 50 years ago. 

Dr. Phillips was actively involved in civic and professional organizations. As chair of the Grayson County Historical Commission, he was responsible for obtaining several Historical Markers for the county. He was a member of the Sam Rayburn Foundation Board of Trustees, the Texoma Outdoor Club, the Sherman Preservation League, the Texas State Historical Association, and the Southwestern Historical Society. A founding member of the Red River Historical Museum in Sherman, Phillips also served as an elder at Grand Avenue Presbyterian Church and directed the centennial observances of the congregation in 2001. 

Dr. Phillips is survived by his wife of 58 years, Pat Phillips of Sherman, as well as two sons: Peter Phillips of Sherman and Dr. Jeffrey Phillips and wife Mary Lynn of Huntersville, North Carolina; and three grandchildren: Rebecca, Jacob, and Abigail of Huntersville. 

Memorials may be made to Grand Ave. Presbyterian Church, 901 N. Grand Ave., Sherman, TX 75090; or Austin College, 900 N. Grand Ave., Sherman, TX 75090 (for scholarships).