Kilpatrick’s Barry Phillips, a key Georgia civic and business leader, passes away

By Maria Saporta

One of Atlanta’s leading business and civic leaders — Barry Phillips — passed away Monday of congestive heart failure.

Phillips was former chairman of the Kilpatrick, Cody, Rogers, McClatchey & Regenstein law firm, which is now known as Kilpatrick, Townsend & Stockton. He joined the firm in 1954, and he stayed with the firm for 43 years until he retired in 1997.

During his tenure, Phillips served in numerous civic roles, including chairing the Georgia Board of Regents and participating in many of the major initiatives underway in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

Phillips also was one of the closest friends and advisors of former Gov. Joe Frank Harris, and his wife, Gracie Phillips, served in the Harris administration. The Phillips were married for 54 years.

Phillips was a Georgian through and through. He graduated from Valdosta High School, attended the University of Georgia and the University of Georgia Law School. The family said he was a “life-long scholar” who loved history, the practice of law, UGA and especially his family and friends.

Gracie and Barry Phillips

He is survived by his wife, Grace Greer Phillips, of Lakeland, Georgia; four children — daughter, Mary Grace Phillips Reaves of Atlanta and her husband, John Barry Reaves, Jr.; three sons, Barry Phillips, Jr., his wife, Robin Schurr Phillips; John Greer Phillips and his wife, Dr. Lynley Durrett Phillips; all of Atlanta; and Quinton Braddock Phillips and his wife, Cindy Jerrell Phillips of Watkinsville, Georgia. The Phillips also have five grandchildren — Emily Greer Phillips, Callan Rachel Phillips, Laurel Grace Phillips, Lindsey Scarlet Phillips and Luke Durrett Phillips.

Phillips served in the Korean War, stationed on the front lines where he was commander of a tank battalion. He earned the Air Medal for flying missions as an aerial observer identifying and calling back positions of enemy fire to the tanks and men on the front lines.

He also was a lifelong supporter of the University of Georgia, earning many high honors. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa, was a member of ODK, Sphinx, Gridiron, Phi Kappa Alpha, and was a Scholar Athlete.

He attended college on a football scholarship under Coaches Wally Butts and Quinton Lumpkin and was proud that, under the auspices of Coach Lumpkin, he established the first tutorial and study hall for fellow athletes at the University of Georgia.

He established two scholarships for the University of Georgia, one for the Law School, in honor of his law firm, the Kilpatrick Scholarship Fund, and the other to the University for Scholar Athletes, named in memory of his mentor, Coach Lumpkin. Phillips graduated cum laude from the University of Georgia Law School in 1954.

That’s when he joined the Kilpatrick law firm, where he practiced his entire life. He served as the firm’s chairman for 12 years.

During his career, Phillips was active in the Atlanta community. He served as a founding member of the British American Business Group and the Canadian American Society. He was a member of the Society of International Business Fellows. Phillips also was an officer of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, former president of the Georgia Council of International Visitors where he was well known for his hospitality to international visitors.

He also was a member of the Lawyers Club of Atlanta, the Downtown Kiwanis Club, the Piedmont Driving Club, the Commerce Club and many other professional associations. Phillips also was presiding co-chairman of the National Conference of Christians and Jews and president of the Fulton County Division of the American Heart Association. He was named one of the Most Influential Georgians by both Atlanta Magazine and Georgia Trend Magazine and selected as a Best Lawyer in Atlanta.

In addition to serving as chairman of the Georgia Board of Regents Phillips served as chairman of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame Board and as the first chairman of the Metropolitan Atlanta Olympic Games Authority for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games held in Atlanta.

Olympic organizer Billy Payne solicited Phillips and his law firm to help organize the games. That was due to Phillips’ friendship with Payne’s late father, Porter Payne. Phillips actually was present in Tokyo in 1990 for the announcement of Atlanta as the winner of the 1996 Summer games, and he signed the contract as chairman of the Metropolitan Atlanta Olympic Games Authority along with Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson.

Phillips also served on corporate boards. He was an executive committee board member of Bank South, which was acquired by NationsBank-Bank of America; and he served as a director of Dodge Wire Co., Atlas Finance Co., Scripto Inc., Colonial Stores, Fox Manufacturing Co., Life of the South and IRT Realty. And while he retired from his law firm in 1997, he remained as “Of Counsel” to the firm until his death.

The family will receive friends at H.M. Patterson Spring Hill Chapel Wednesday, Jan. 25 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Funeral Services will be held at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church on Thursday, Jan. 26 at 3 p.m.

In lieu of flowers donations can be made to Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP Scholarship Fund in honor of Barry Phillips at the University of Georgia Law School, 120 Herty Dr, Athens Ga. 30602 in care of the Development Office. Donations also an be made to the America Heart Association: P.O. Box 840692; Dallas, Texas 75284-0692 or at www.heart.org. Online condolences may be made at H.M. Patterson Spring Hill.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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