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Thu, 04.01.1880

Homer Phillips, Lawyer and Public Policy Advocate born

Homer Phillips

*Homer Phillips was born on this date in 1880. He was a Black lawyer and public policy advocate.

Homer Gilliam Phillips was born in Sedalia, Missouri. He was the son of a Methodist minister, but he was orphaned in infancy and raised by an aunt. Phillips's interest in law led him to Washington, D.C., where he lived with poet Paul Laurence Dunbar while attending Howard University Law School. He also briefly worked at the Justice Department and married Ida Perle Alexander, an actress. 

Returning to Missouri, Phillips became an active attorney and political figure in St. Louis. In 1922, he secured approximately $1 million to construct a new hospital for African Americans on the city's North Side. While the voters approved the bond issue to fund the construction of a new facility to replace St. Louis's Barnes Hospital, city officials attempted to force black St. Louis residents to use the outdated Deaconess Hospital. Phillips led the fight against the city's efforts and persuaded leaders to create the new fully funded hospital, though construction was delayed for another decade.

On June 18, 1931, fifty-one-year-old Phillips left his home at 7:45 a.m. to take a streetcar to his office in downtown St. Louis. He stopped to purchase a newspaper, which he read while waiting for his streetcar to arrive. Two men approached him. One man struck him in the face before drawing a gun and killing him. The two fled and were arrested for the murder but released due to a lack of evidence. No one was ever convicted of Phillips's murder, and no motive for the killing was ever established. Although Phillips did not live to see the hospital named in his honor, the Homer G. Phillips Hospital was opened in 1937 to serve the city's black population and to enable black physicians to gain staff privileges.

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