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Clarence W. “Pete” Phillips, Jr., the colorful and outspoken Tennessee State Legislator for Lincoln County for 30 years, died Wednesday in Shelbyville.
Genuinely loved by his constituents, Phillips will be remembered as a friend to Lincoln County.
“I was saddened to learn of Rep. Pete Phillips’ passing,” said Lincoln County Mayor Peggy Bevels. “Pete Phillips was an institution. His knowledge of history and government was boundless.
“After my election in 1986, I went to Nashville for orientation, and no one knew where Fayetteville-Lincoln County was. This was disappointing; therefore, I asked the Chamber Director Margie Solomon what we could do to correct this. We went to Pete Phillips and he suggested we do ‘Hamburger Day on the Hill’ since we were #1 in beef cattle. He took care of getting the legislatures to approve this day for Fayetteville-Lincoln County. This next March, we will celebrate 25 years of ‘Hamburger Day on the Hill’.
“Pete Phillips was so important to Lincoln County, and I’ll never forget him,” she added.
“I still hear many Pete stories up here in the Legislature,” said State Rep. Pat Marsh. “Being around 30 years, Pete knew how to get things done and with a flare.
“They still talk about how he ran the Calendar and Rules Committee with an iron fist. He didn’t let anything get to the floor that their leadership didn’t want,” Marsh added.
“I am honored to follow him and hope I can get as much done for our district as Pete did.”
State Sen. Jim Tracy noted that Phillips was a good friend to the Lincoln County community – “Pete Phillips worked hard with Lincoln County elected officials and his constituents on all kinds of issues, and he will be greatly missed,” Tracy said.
Son of Bedford County Judge Clarence Waters Phillips and Laura Wilkes Phillips, Pete was born in the Bedford County Hospital, Feb. 1, 1925, and graduated from Shelbyville Central High School, where he was president of his senior class, before attending Vanderbilt University. He was an Eagle Scout. He served in the U.S. Army for two years at the end of World War II, participating as a corporal in an infantry division in the Battle for Okinawa in 1945.
After the war, he completed a BA at Vanderbilt, as well as an LLB from Vanderbilt Law School. All of his life, he was almost as staunch a Vandy fan as he was a committed Democrat.
In December 1947, he married Faith Hall Phillips, with whom he lived in Shelbyville as an attorney from 1951 until she passed away in 2010. Pete was an elder of the Shelbyville First Christian Church and was a past president of the Shelbyville-Bedford County Bar Association.
Among his accomplishments in the Tennessee Legislature are the expansion of the Murfreesboro Highway (231) from Shelbyville to Rutherford County, securing funding for the Tennessee Fire Service and Codes Enforcement Academy on the Unionville-Deason Road and the creation of the Shelbyville-Tullahoma Bypass (437).
Phillips was a member of the Tennessee House for the 88th through 102nd General Assemblies and served as chairman of the House Calendar and Rules Committee, as well as chairman of the Commerce Committee Utilities and Banking Subcommittee.
He is survived by two sons, Stephen and Will, and two grandsons, Matt and Nate.
Funeral services were held Saturday at the First Christian Church in Shelbyville.