A dedicated servant, and a true advocate for all of us:  Rogersville City Attorney, Bill Phillips, dies at 73

Rogersville City Attorney William Phillips (seated in the foreground at left) is pictured here at a 2017 BMA meeting

“It is hard to think of Rogersville and not think of Bill Phillips,” Rogersville Alderman Sonda Price told the Review.

Rogersville City Attorney and community leader William “Bill” Phillips passed away on Jan. 20 after a two-week battle with COVID-19.

Phillips’ friends and neighbors remembered him as “a steady hand,” “quick witted,” “knowledgeable,” “a dear friend,” and a “dedicated servant” to the community.

Phillips practiced law for 45 years at the Rogersville-based Phillips & Hale, along with his father, brother, cousin and eventually his son. He served as the city attorney since he was appointed on May 11, 1976.

“The town of Rogersville is deeply saddened by the passing of our long-time City Attorney,” Rogersville Mayor Jim Sells told the Review. “His service to the town has gone beyond the scope of just city attorney. He has always had the best interest of the citizens of Rogersville and Hawkins County and served in many ways no one ever knew about. His quick wit, friendliness, and knowledge will be missed by our employees and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. We would like to extend our sincerest sympathy to his family and friends.”

“His family has been a steady hand in all things Rogersville and his love for our town was evident in all he did,” Price added. “He gave countless hours and advice to many and wanted nothing more than to see this town prosper. I am proud to have worked with him through my position on City Council. We have lost a dear friend, a dedicated servant, and a true advocate for all of us. My prayers go out to his family. May they find some comfort in knowing his passing has touched so many and that their loss is shared by an entire community.”

Phillips’ brother, James “Jim” Phillips, is the Hawkins County Attorney, and his son, William “Will” Phillips is the Church Hill City Attorney.

“As City Attorney, Bill was, of course, an extremely valuable and integral part of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen,” Alderman and Hawkins County Commissioner Mark DeWitte added. “We relied on his expertise to make sure the decisions that we made followed the law. He was enjoyable to be around, always having a joke or remark that made everyone smile. He’ll definitely be missed as a professional and a friend.”

“I will remember Bill as being a very knowledgeable and dedicated man to the problems and progress of the city of Rogersville,” Alderman Eloise Edwards said. “I have been on the board and have worked with Phillips for 12 years. This is a huge loss for the board and the city. He will be greatly missed, especially at our monthly meetings and our workshops every year in Nashville . We must continue on with business at hand for the town, and I feel like what we have accomplished with the guidance of Attorney Bill Phillips will be continued and we will all feel better then about our accomplishments. I would like to send my heartfelt sympathy to Joyce, William, Erica and grandsons, Attorney Jim and family, Ruthie and family.”

Phillips graduated from Rogersville High School in 1965 and continued his education at the University of Tennessee.

On Dec. 29 of that same year, he married his wife, Joyce Davis Phillips.

While he was still enrolled at UT, Phillips volunteered for the United States Army and served in Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne. When he returned from combat, Phillips taught ballistic meteorology at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. After being honorably discharged, Bill returned to UT, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in political science. He then obtained his Juris Doctorate from the UT School of Law. He and his wife then returned to Rogersville, where Phillips began practicing at Phillips and Hale.

In addition to his work in law, Phillips was a lifelong member of Rogersville Presbyterian Church, where he was a member of the choir and served as elder and trustee. He also loved the game of golf, and, according to his obituary, he enjoyed coordinating weekly golf outings, as well as annual golf trips with lifelong friends.

All those who knew him likely remember his sense of humor and, as Sells described, “his quick wit.”

As his obituary states, “there was little Bill loved more in this world than making people laugh.”