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Phillips leaves huge legacy

Thursday, December 13, 2012

(Photo)
Former state representative Clarence "Pete" Phillips speaks at a 2005 ceremony naming the Tennessee Fire Service and Codes Enforcement Academy after him.
(T-G Photo by Brian Mosely) [Order this photo]
Clarence "Pete" Phillips, 87, who represented Bedford County in the state House of Representatives for 30 years and chaired its powerful calendar committee, died Wednesday afternoon at Heritage Medical Center.

(Photo)
Clarence "Pete" Phillips
Phillips, a Democrat, was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1972, choosing not to run for re-election in 2002.

The Tennessee Fire Service and Codes Enforcement Academy, as it is casually known, is formally named for him, as is the Bedford County segment of U.S. 231 north of Shelbyville.

Phillips was a key supporter of the fire academy, at one point calling for its construction from the floor of the House even after his microphone had been turned off by the speaker. He was equally active in calling for the widening of 231 from two to four lanes between Shelbyville and Murfreesboro and in laying the groundwork for the eventual construction of Shelbyville's northeastern bypass.

Fondly remembered

One of Phillips' last public appearances was at the ribbon-cutting for that bypass, in August 2011. Seated in a wheelchair, he cut the ribbon along with other state and local officials.

His demeanor that day was a far cry from the energetic and colorful politician who was a major part of the county's political landscape for decades.

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, who lived in and represented Shelbyville during a part of Phillips' tenure, issued this statement: "Pete was a great friend and state representative. His wife, Faith, and outstanding sons were tributes to Pete's long and successful life. He will be sorely missed."

"Pete was a very good friend of mine," said County Mayor Eugene Ray, "a very good state legislator, and very supportive of Bedford County. He will be missed."

Accomplishments

Bedford County Clerk and Master Curt Cobb, a Democrat who followed Phillips into the 62nd District seat, cited not only the fire school and the highway but also Motlow State Community College's Sundquist Center in Fayetteville, as well as many other road and school safety projects throughout the district.

"You see where he put his fingerprints on so many things," said Cobb. "He's definitely a mentor of mine .... He's going to be deeply missed."

State Rep. Pat Marsh, a Republican now representing the 62nd District, says he still hears "Pete stories galore" from colleagues in the House who worked with Phillips.

"I appreciate the many years of service that he gave to our county and our district," said Marsh. "It's a pleasure and a privilege for me to walk in his footsteps." The district also included, and still includes, portions of Lincoln County, and Marsh said he hears fond rememberances of Phillips there as well.

"I was very sad to hear of the passing of Pete Phillips, who served Bedford County for three decades in the House of Representatives," said State Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville, a Republican. "I had the opportunity to work with him and with our Chamber of Commerce in planning the Shelbyville by-pass .... He has left a legacy as a good public servant and he will be missed."

Background

Phillips, an attorney, operated a mortgage company on Depot Street. He was the target of a 2010 home invasion.

Phillips came from a political family; his father, Clarence W. Phillips Sr., was a former Bedford County Judge (the position now known as county mayor), state highway commissioner and director of rights of way for the federal government.

He was a World War II veteran who participated in the invasion of Okinawa in the U.S. Army Air Corps. His wife Faith died in 2010; they had two sons, Will, a resident of New York City, and Stephen, a resident of Austin, Texas.

Services for Phillips will be 1 p.m. Saturday at First Christian Church. See complete obituary information here.


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