HIGH POINT — When it came to High Point history, few people have ever known or understood it better than Bill Phillips.
“He was a great historian,” said longtime friend Darrell Frye, who knew Phillips for more than half a century and participated in a men’s breakfast group with him for the past several years.
“We loved to pick his brain. Somebody would start a conversation about something — usually something about High Point — and Bill would chime right in and tell you everything you wanted to know. He was just a load of information.”
Phillips, a past president of the High Point Historical Society — and a passionate champion of all things High Point — died Sunday morning at Hospice Home at High Point, following a battle with bone cancer. He was 78.
Funeral arrangements for Phillips are incomplete.
A High Point native, Phillips graduated from High Point Central High School (1961) and High Point College (1965) before serving a stint in the military and working at Alderman Studios. During the 1970s, Gov. Jim Hunt appointed Phillips to serve as North Carolina’s deputy secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety, and he remained in that position through part of Gov. Jim Martin’s tenure.
It was after that, though, that Phillips became well-known in High Point, especially for his work with the historical society and the High Point Museum. A longtime member and volunteer, Phillips served as president of both the historical society and the High Point Museum Guild and served multiple terms on the historical society’s board of directors.
Phillips also was “hugely instrumental” in the fundraising campaign to restore and move the Little Red Schoolhouse to the High Point Museum campus, said Edith Brady, museum director.
“He was very knowledgeable about High Point history, and he was such a big part of what we do,” Brady said. “This is a really big loss for High Point.”
In 2017, Phillips received the Mary Lib Joyce Award, the highest honor bestowed by the High Point Historical Society, for his service and dedication to the organization.
Phillips also served on the boards of Visit High Point and Business High Point-Chamber of Commerce, and worked on countless projects related to history in High Point and beyond, according to Frye.
Brady said Phillips willingly championed the city any way he could.
“He loved High Point and was always looking for ways to make High Point shine,” she said. “He wanted everybody else to see High Point the way he saw it. He wanted to make it a place that would be on the map.”
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