Thursday, July 19, 2012

Remembering Rubel

Rubel Phillips left this world a year ago, remembered and missed by many but forgotten by the media. Mr. Phillips deserved much better treatment from a media that couldn't seem to take a break from the scandal of the day. He was a true pioneer in Mississippi politics as he and Wirt Yerger built the Mississippi Republican Party literally from nothing and bucked the segregationist Democratic Party. I hate to admit this but I never heard of Mr. Phillips until I read Nash and Taggart's Mississippi Politics. I learned more about this trail-blazer from friends that knew him well and decided JJ would make an effort to show Mr. Phillips the respect he deserved upon his passing.* Former Ambassador John Palmer was one of his closest friends and provided JJ with a copy of a speech he gave in memorial of Rubel Phillips several years ago as his health began to fail. It is posted below.

Rubel Philips was born in Alcorn County and I was born in Alcorn County. The difference is: Rubel was raised on a farm in Kossuth; and I was raised in downtown Corinth. Rubel once called me something that no one else has ever called me. I suppose as someone from Corinth, ONLY someone from Kossuth could rightfully do so. He called me a “city slicker.”

But Rubel moved out of Kossuth and we were neighbors for several years. I don’t know all the Philips brothers very well, but I knew Rubel and I knew his brother Hal and I am convinced they are two of the brightest and most intellectual people to ever come out of Alcorn County.

Rubel started his career by winning an election to be circuit court clerk. What many of you might not know is, back then you could get married in 30 minutes in Mississippi. And people from Indiana and Illinois and Kentucky and Tennessee would drive to Alcorn County – because we were on the Tennessee line – to get married. And Rubel as clerk paid by fees, would sit there and issue out a marriage license for $25 dollars. So, he’d give five dollars to the county and he’d keep twenty for himself and he built up an impressive fund in preparation for his next campaign, which was for Public Service Commissioner.

Rubel was an outstanding Northern District Public Service Commissioner and a well respected chairman of the commission. Oh, if only we had Rubel as one of those commissioners today. He did so much for the state and had such understanding of what was good policy for both citizens and industry in Mississippi. He was a progressive leader focused on economic development and jobs for everyone. And that’s not true for all the public service commissioners today.

Well, Rubel had made a long journey from hoeing cotton in Kossuth, then circuit clerk, then public service commissioner, and now he was going to run for governor. And it was the sixties and the sixties were bad. Many of us lived through it and lived in the segregated society before then; others here may not have even been born.

Governor Faubus was screaming in Arkansas and George Wallace was screaming he would never be out segregated again after his loss in Alabama. And we had Ross Barnett who represented our state in such a poor way and did so much to damage our reputation nationally. Barnett gave us such a bad image. Mississippi and much of the South had such bad leadership from the Democratic Party. And then we had Paul Johnson, Jr. who vowed to carry on the Ross Barnett legacy.

But along came Rubel. It was 1963 and Wirt and others convinced Rubel he should run against Johnson as a Republican. He kicked off his campaign in Corinth with Grand Ole Opry member Roy Acuff. Roy Acuff had run as a Republican for governor in Tennessee and lost. Well, Rubel also lost, but he did win about forty percent of the vote and put a stamp on Mississippi as a two-party state. Afterward, Democrats even tried to legislate what they called “Republicanism” away. But they failed. The GOP was here to stay, thanks to people like Wirt and Rubel.

Four years later, in 1967, Rubel ran again, this time against John Bell Williams. John Bell had just returned from Congress where he had been voted the least influential congressman in the country. And John Bell Williams continued the same rabble rousing populist campaign the previous politicians had given us. But Rubel said something different. Rubel had true leadership.

I remember seeing him on television saying that ‘Congressman Williams is telling you we’re never going to integrate schools. I’m not going to tell you that, because we ARE going to integrate schools.’ Rubel said, and I’m paraphrasing this, that, ‘You know, when you reach down and help someone – you help the poor and underprivileged– when you do that, you help yourself. And that is what we must do to give a fair and equal education, to create an equal opportunity to work and make a living, to ensure justice and respect in the courts of law. That helps everyone, but it starts with those of us who can lend a hand to help out those who need a hand.’

It made quite a stir on television in Mississippi and across the country when Rubel kicked off that campaign. He said, “We have got to be willing to remove the barriers to economic advancement, and we have got to be willing to make an investment in future productivity.” That was Rubel’s theme for all Mississippians, blacks and whites alike. He said something that the voters of Mississippi had never heard from a mainstream candidate.

Some said when he was marked with the label “racial moderate” that it was the death nail to his political career. But that didn’t matter to him, because he believed in standing for what was right. Maybe it was Providence that put him in the position where he could say something new without fear of political ramifications. So he said it.

Wirt Yerger gave the party its birth; and Rubel Philips first gave the growth and scope statewide that the Republican Party was different from that other party that many of us were once members of. Rubel showed Mississippi that the Republican Party is the party of ideas, the party of opportunity, the party of leadership, the party of progress for a better Mississippi for all citizens regardless of race or economic standing.

On the morning after he was defeated, our pastor at Northminster Baptist Church called and said ‘we need to go give Rubel a little comfort; make sure he’s ok. Let’s get a golf game together.’ So we did. We went and played golf and Rubel was fine. He was disappointed I’m sure, but he handled it like he handled everything, with measured grace.

And we came in after we finished and the pastor said, ‘Rubel, you know, you lost that election. But in losing, you won. You were the first to tell the public the truth. You were the first to adopt a fair and progressive policy, and to get the public thinking about change, about changing their ways. So yes, you lost that election Rubel, but really you won.’

Rubel was able to make a difference in the private sector as well.

As a lawyer, he handled everything from divorces to serving as counsel for our company. I noticed that in several of the divorce cases Rubel handled, no one ever ended up divorced. Rubel was different from most attorneys. He wanted those spouses to settle their differences and get back together. Maybe he thought that as he had married half the country in Alcorn County, they might start wanting their money back. But seriously, Rubel didn’t want families going through a long term battle that drove up lawyer fees; he wanted to do what was right. And I observed what he was doing and observed how he could reconcile people and issues.

That was important to our company, so he represented us in acquisitions of small companies and large companies. He always had the respect of those he negotiated with be it in a small town like Longview, Texas or a big city like Chicago or Los Angeles. Everyone respected him because of his straightforwardness and his tremendous skills. One of his skills was to keep a transaction alive when others would have watched the deal fall through. He was always working on solutions and then closing the deal – not everyone can do that. There are too many legal standoffs that prevent a partnership from being sealed, but Rubel wouldn’t let that happen. Our company completed many, many transactions and acquisitions and without Rubel those successes wouldn’t have happened.

It was providential he became our in-house counsel at a critical time when we were in constant negotiations with big markets and the FCC and dealing with cellular licenses and applications that had to go through court processes and legal maneuvers. Rubel was invaluable and built up great value for our company and our stockholders.

I don’t know how best to explain what he did except: shortly after he put all our deals together, we sold the company to Bell South for an amount in excess of one billion dollars…So Rubel…thank-ya, buddy!

You know, Rubel was not elected governor, but he did nurture a solid Republican party -- not to take anything away from you, Wirt.

For the first time, people in this state were thinking differently. We realized the hurt and pain and damage our bad leaders had done. Since then, we have progressed in extraordinary and unimaginable ways. Today we are blessed with the exceptional leadership of Governor Haley Barbour, Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, and other Republican elected officials.

Last week I heard Tom Brokaw say in a private conversation that Mississippi had come further than any state in progress in our race relations. Just think where we might have been today if Rubel had been elected our leader, our governor back then. Good leadership matters. Makes you wonder how much further, how much more progressed Mississippi might be today had we done the right thing and he had been elected.

Rubel was a public servant in Alcorn County and North Mississippi. He was a candidate that changed politics and people in Mississippi. He was a brilliant lawyer, a skillful businessman, and a wonderful father and husband. Rubel also helped start Northminster Baptist Church here in Jackson that forged a unique partnership with the Jewish community in Mississippi through Temple Beth Israel. Northminster continues today to be a positive force in the community for the poor and needy.

A family man, a business man, a man of vision, a man of faith.

Rubel, tonight we recognize you and honor you as our gubernatorial and Republican pioneer.

We admire you, and we thank you, Rubel Phillips.

*Brett Kitteridge published a post about Mr. Phillips when he died.


Anonymous said...

" And that is what we must do to give a fair and equal education, to create an equal opportunity to work and make a living, to ensure justice and respect in the courts of law. That helps everyone, but it starts with those of us who can lend a hand to help out those who need a hand."

How true a statement this is! I cannot adequately explain how fervently we believed during this period that education was the answer to equality of all Mississippians. I can remember "ol'timers" telling me that I didn't know what I was talking about and that many did not want to be educated. I still look at Mississippi fifty years later and wonder how we can help the ones who won't stay in school, the ones who you know that incarceration is an inevitable future. But, Ruble did lead the way in many cases and others too became better leaders.

Shadowfax said...

Now that Ruble's dream of fairness and equality in education, equal opportunity to work, justice in the courts, more black elected officials than in any other state, black judges in every facet of our judiciary, blacks on every sort of board and in every sort of position Ruble would not have dreamed possible.....Now that his dream is achieved.....Now What?

Anonymous said...

Rubel was THE MAN! He was republican before it paid to be a republican, back when the vision was intact, back before so-called republicans left to lobby congress for big tobacco, Mexico (amnesty for illegal aliens), Dubai (and other arab nations and entities), etc.

I agree with and endorse every single thing Ambassador Palmer said with the sole exception being that a qualification noting that for Barbour, Cochran and Wicker, their first deeds were much better than their last. Greg Harper is The MAN now!

Thank you, Mr. Fish!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Yes Mr Harper has stood alone against the forces of evil in the house, Baloney

He is just as bad as the rest of them.

Kingfish said...

Don't just sit there and be a smarty, come and join the Nazi party.

Anonymous said...

Not knowing much about Rubel,I went to google and the Wikipedia entry for him. It paints a different picture than I believe is true and needs to be cleaned up by someone with better facts than I have.

Pugnacious said...

Ditto what Shadowfax said.

Anonymous said...

Oftentimes it's been said, "The fruit doesn't fall far from the tree." And in most cases, it's been BS. However, having been a friend of one of his sons for a long time: there has never been a finer example of a man's son bringing honor to his father's name. The son is a true gentleman, in every sense of the word.

I also met Mr. Phillips on several occasions and he was always a truly great man. Way ahead of his time. One can only imagine where we would be today with such forward thinking.

Excellent post KF.


Anonymous said...

Oftentimes it's been said, "The fruit doesn't fall far from the tree." And in most cases, it's been BS. However, having been a friend of one of his sons for a long time: there has never been a finer example of a man's son bringing honor to his father's name. The son is a true gentleman, in every sense of the word.

I also met Mr. Phillips on several occasions and he was always a truly great man. Way ahead of his time. One can only imagine where we would be today with such forward thinking.

Excellent post KF.


Pugnacious said...

One can only imagine where we would be today with such forward thinking.~

More than likely emeshed in another MIC-induced foreign entanglement with MNG troops on the ground, planting "Old Glory" amidst the burning rubble and bloated corpses of "militants" and "terrorists."

Shadowfax said...

One can only imagine where we would be today with such forward thinking.~

Stupid statement. Why does one need to imagine that? Every sugar plum Philips is said to have had visions of has come to pass. If we had more men/women today having those same dreams of those same sugar plums, where might it end?

What the hell is the point of dreaming dreams that, once achieved, have you just as squarely behind various eight-balls as you were prior to dozing off into dreamland?

If men and children of color only had equal educational opportunities. If men of color could have an equal shot at the jobs our economy offers. If men of color had the right to move about and eat and sleep and play where they haven't been able to. If boys and girls of color could find their way into higher education opportunities and sports programs at the collegiate and post collegiate levels. If only men and women of color could worship, shop and be entertained at places of their choosing without being hooted or spat upon. If men of color could vote unencumbered and join political associations and run for office without ridicule and slamming doors. If our churches, automobile dealership drinking fountains and public parks were not sectioned off by color.

All of those 'ifs' have long since been addressed and have vanished into history. Yet where are we now and why do we need men of such vision today? If a frog had wings.

Anonymous said...

What a great and thoughtful post. Rubel for Governor -- a real missed opportunity for Mississippi. Thanks, KF.

Kingfish said...

i see him and I keep seeing Oscar Goldman. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Rubel Phillips put the Republican party on the map in Mississippi, and he did a great job. If he hadn't had John Bell Williams as an opponent (campaigning as a war hero) I think Rubel would have won that election for governor, too. All things considered, in retropect, that might not have been a bad thing for Mississippi.

Rubel Phillips was NOT a country bumpkin, and I am quite sure he was not "out from town" chopping cotton, either. I have to wonder why that image was portrayed.

Also, his brother, Hal, was an excellent author.

Phillips said...

Growing up in Corinth, Mississippi, one of my best childhood memories is of the older generations of Phillips' including my grandfather who was their uncle, telling stories of this time. Yes, indeed the Phillips' did cut cotton, and grew on a farm!

Proud to grew up where previous generations did and the halls of Kossuth High School.

Recent Comments

Search Jackson Jambalaya

Subscribe to JJ's Youtube channel


Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS