By Emily Mosh
Former Lexington Mayor and Washington and Lee University Professor Charles F. Phillips, Jr. died on Wednesday at the age of 77.
A Geneva, N.Y., native, Phillips passed away in Lexington. W&L President Ken Ruscio released this statement on behalf of the university explaining what the loss meant to both the school, and the community.
“I am sorry to tell you of the death yesterday, Oct. 17, of Chuck Phillips, the Robert G. Brown Professor of Economics Emeritus. He was 77 and lived here in Lexington. Chuck taught at W&L for 44 years, retiring in 2003.
“This is a great loss for the community as well as the University. Not only was Chuck an eminent scholar and a highly regarded teacher, but he was also a tireless public servant. I always marveled at his ability to pursue his scholarly activity and his national consulting work while also serving for 17 years as the mayor of Lexington and holding many other key positions in the community.
“Chuck taught courses in industrial organization, regulated industries and corporate economics. He focused primarily on governmental regulation of public utilities. He was a national expert on the issue, consulting for many regulated businesses and testifying as an expert witness before federal and state regulatory commissions. He literally wrote the book on the field; his textbook, “The Regulation of Public Utilities: Theory and Practice,” went into three editions. It was one of three books he wrote, along with dozens of articles and papers.
“Born on Nov. 5, 1934, in Geneva, N.Y., Chuck received his B.A. in economics from the University of New Hampshire and his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard.
“He joined the W&L faculty in 1959, choosing to pursue the same career as his father, who had taught economics before serving for 25 years as president of Bates College, in Maine. As a testament to how quickly Chuck became a widely popular faculty member, students dedicated the 1962 Calyx to him and his colleague, Sidney M.B. Coulling of the English Department. He was named to the Brown Professorship in 1979. He served on virtually all of the University’s committees and advised numerous student organizations, including the Williams Investment Society and Beta Theta Pi social fraternity.
“In 1979, at the height of his consulting with public utilities, Chuck estimated that he traveled an average of 65,000 miles a year. In addition to that work, he was appointed in 1971 to a statewide commission that studied the desirability of legalizing pari-mutuel betting on horse racing in Virginia. A year later, President Richard Nixon appointed him to the Commission on the Review of the National Policy Toward Gambling. In Virginia, he served more than 20 years on the Republican State Central Committee.
“Chuck was extremely active in the Lexington community, serving on the city council for four years before winning election as mayor in 1971. He held that office through 1988 and was responsible for the transformation of the community in many ways, including revitalizing the downtown and emphasizing the richness of its history. He was also active in the United Way of Lexington-Rockbridge County, Lexington Presbyterian Church, Historic Lexington Foundation and Valley Program for Aging Services, among numerous other local organizations.
“In a 1979 feature article, Chuck told the Richmond Times-Dispatch: ‘I never planned my life to be so busy; things have just evolved that way. The pace, I hope, will slow down some day. But I like what I’m doing now.’
“The recipient of several major honors and awards, Chuck was active in regional and national organizations, serving as president on three occasions of Omicron Delta Epsilon, the international economics honor society.”
Funeral arrangements are pending.