TOP PHOTO: Former District Attorney General Paul Phillips guest spoke at the South Campbell County Rotary Club luncheon on Tuesday.
By Charlotte Underwood
LAFOLLETTE, TN. (WLAF)- Former Eighth Judicial District Attorney General Paul Phillips guest spoke at the South Campbell County Rotary Club luncheon on Tuesday.
Phillips was introduced by Rotarian Shirley Fox Rogers.
“He’s a shining example of a human being. He was the district attorney for over 33 years and it broke our hearts when he retired. He is responsible for the Children’s Advocacy centers in Campbell and surrounding counties” Rogers said.
Phillips is about to retire from his work as private counsel to the nonprofit Elgin Children’s Foundation in Knoxville.
Phillips said he always enjoyed coming to Campbell County.
“I appreciate Campbell County very much. You have given us outstanding judges over the years,” Phillips said.
He spoke mostly about growing up in Oneida in the 1950s and how coming to LaFollette was “coming to the big city.”
His father ran a general store in Oneida and the family lived up above it.
“In the summertime we were barefoot and dirty, and only took a bath every Saturday night,” Phillips said.
They didn’t have a TV, but the lady who owned the hotel next door did.
“She would welcome us into her hotel and we would sit and watch her television. We would watch the Lone Ranger, starring Clayton Moore,” Phillips said.
“He helped the downtrodden; he helped the weak and the powerless. Clayton Moore said he became a better man playing the Lone Ranger,” Phillips said. Phillips credits watching the Lone Ranger as helping inspire his sense of justice and right and wrong.
“The greatest teacher I ever had in the law was the Lone Ranger and Tonto,” Phillips said.
Phillips attended Berea College and his older brother was there ahead of him.
“He went to law school in Vanderbilt and they were so impressed with him, that Vanderbilt offered me a good scholarship, so I went and I didn’t like it. But I hung in there. At the end of my first year in Vanderbilt I was hired by the District Attorney General for Nashville and Davidson County. I was very surprised I was hired. We couldn’t have been more different. But that man emphasized to us to do the right thing. We saw him every day stand up for the weak and the defenseless. This man showed me you can use the law to help vulnerable and pursue justice, so I started paying attention in law school,” Phillips said.
He also told stories about going to the movie theater every Saturday when he was just a boy. In the 1950s, it cost 15 cents and popcorn was a nickel.
“One time we saw at the movie the James’s Gang and they were robbing banks, so we put our guns on and our masks on and we went inside the local bank and said this is a robbery. We were sure they didn’t know who we were; we had our masks on. What I didn’t realize was my uncle worked in that bank and he told the teller to ask us how much we wanted. I thought of the biggest number I could think of. So the teller said how much money do you want and I said 50 cents and my buddy said ‘each’. And the teller pushed the 50 cents through to us. That bank is now United Cumberland Bank and I still owe them 50 cents,” Phillips said with a laugh.
The bank job went so well that he and his buddy went next door to the barbershop and tried the stick up routine there as well. The barber told them to ‘get outa there,’ but they said no, this is a robbery, at which point the barber called his father.
“We darted out of there fast and there coming down the street as fast as I’ve ever seen him walk was my dad and my buddy’s grandpa and they were carrying belts; they whipped us all the way up Main Street, but you know, they never found out we got the money from the bank job,” Phillips said.
(WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED 10/25/2023- 6AM)