Carliss Phillips provided for Southwestern’s students, ministries for four decades
Jack Terry officiated over the funeral of Carliss O. Phillips Feb. 17, 2006, “with great sorrow.” But even in mourning, Terry said the funeral was an opportunity to celebrate his relationship with Phillips, a “true Christian gentleman.”
Terry is vice-president emeritus and special assistant to the president for institutional advancement at Southwestern Seminary. Phillips was a “dear and precious friend” and father figure to Terry and his wife, Barbara. He was also a long-time supporter of the seminary and several ministries and community organizations, Terry said. Phillips, 89, died at his home in Quitman, Texas, Feb. 14. His wife, Lois, preceded him in death in 1990.
Terry first met Phillips in 1955, when Terry and his wife, who were newly married, settled in the East Texas town of Quitman. At the time, Terry was the education, music and youth minister at First Baptist Church of Quitman and a senior at East Texas Baptist College in Marshall.
Phillips and his wife began to contribute to the college in Marshall because of his relationship with Terry, which had developed through their work in Sunday school and other church ministries in Quitman. Terry was invited to teach at Southwestern Seminary in 1969, and Phillips’ interest in the seminary soon followed. Phillips and his wife established several endowed scholarships to help students, beginning a 37-year relationship with the seminary. “At the time of his death he was the second largest donor” among 100 other key supporters of the seminary, Terry said.
Terry said many sights on the Southwestern Seminary campus testify to the concern Phillips and his wife had for the seminary. Plaques, such as those in Fleming Hall and The Smith Center at Southwestern (formerly the Center for Leadership Development), name Phillips and his wife among the benefactors of the seminary. They also lent their names to the presidential dining room in the Naylor Student Center, and the “distinguished alumni-gathering foyer” and south entrance drive at The Smith Center. The playground at the Naylor Children’s Center is named for Lois Phillips.
Carliss Phillips advanced the seminary because “he loved preacher boys and he loved to see them educated in the finest way,” Terry said.
Some of Phillips’ donations to the seminary give testimony to the long-time relationship between the Phillips family and the Terry family. He established the “Jack D. and Barbara Terry Suite” in the Ray I. Riley Alumni Center. He founded the “Barbara J. Terry Endowed Program for Women’s Studies” to support the women’s study program that Paige Patterson introduced upon his election as president of the seminary in 2003.
“Mr. and Mrs. Phillips had no children of their own and they sort of adopted Barbara and me as their surrogate children,” Terry said. Phillips owned several grocery stores in East Texas and would often gave Terry and his wife “food and financial help” while they attended seminary. This kindness continued when Terry went to teach at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene and later at Southwestern Seminary.
Jack and Barbara Terry had an opportunity to reciprocate after Lois Phillips died in 1990. Barbara Terry, acting as a “daughter,” assisted Phillips with “his health care, livelihood, food planning and food preparation” for the last 16 years of his life.
Phillips’ generosity and involvement extended beyond the seminary.
“He was known as a charitable donor at the Texas Baptist Children’s Home in Round Rock, Texas, East Texas Baptist University, Quitman High School, and, most of all, at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary,” Terry said.
Phillips served as a deacon at First Baptist Church of Quitman, where he was also a Sunday school director for 41 years. He served as the mayor of Quitman for nine years, and organized the Quitman Volunteer Fire Department and the Wood County Hospital Planning Board. He served for the past 20 years as the director and vice chairman of the board of directors at the First National Bank in Quitman, and he was a member of the founding committee for the Wood County Airport Board. He also had a 58-year perfect attendance record at the Rotary Club in Quitman.