Other Free Encyclopedias » Online Encyclopedia » Encyclopedia - Featured Articles » Contributed Topics from P-T » Phillips, Channing E.(1928–1987) - Minister, civil rights activist, Chronology

Nominated for President of the United States

phillips black nomination time

In this racially charged atmosphere Channing E. Phillips was nominated as a favorite son candidate from the District of Columbia from the floor of the convention. He was nominated by Philip M. Stern, a white D.C. delegate who admired Phillips’ courage and honesty. Phillips received sixty-seven and a half votes. Twenty-one votes came from the D.C. delegates and the remaining votes were cast by African American delegates in seventeen other states. Julian Bond, a twenty-eight-year-old Georgia state legislator, was nominated for vice president of the United States and received forty-eight and a half votes but declined because he was not at the constitutionally required age of thirty-five. Amid all of the highly publicized tumult, Hubert Humphrey emerged as the Democratic Party’s candidate for president.

Phillips’s nomination, although symbolic, brought him instant fame. In a New York Times interview that described him as a “new Negro leader,” Phillips said he thought that the nomination of a black man for president was worthwhile and that it had been an experiment to see if black peoples’ problems could be solved by working with major political parties. He expressed the hope that his nomination had laid the foundation for a black man to be considered as a serious candidate at a future convention.

In 1971, Phillips lost an election to Walter Fauntroy, a charismatic Baptist minister, as the District of Columbia’s non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives. He resigned from his job at the Housing Development Corporation in 1974 with mixed success. The corporation built over 1,000 homes for low income families, who in turn sold them to middle-class buyers, thereby not relieving the city’s low-income housing shortage. There was also a scandal associated with an apartment complex renovation that went bankrupt.

Phillips accepted a vice president for university relations position at his alma mater, Virginia Union University, and relocated to Richmond, Virginia in 1974. An apparent personality clash with the university’s president, however, led to charges of non-performance, and he was terminated. Phillips denied the allegation, sued both the president and university, and settled out of court.

He returned to Washington, D.C. as director of Congressional Relations for the National Endowment for the Humanities. He donned a clerical collar in 1982 for the last time, when he moved to New York and became the minister of planning and coordination for the Riverside Church. He remained in that position until his health began to fail, first with a heart attack and then with cancer. He died of cancer, at the age of 59, on November 13, 1987 at the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.

A brief 1982 Washington Post article posed the question: “Whatever Happened to Channing Phillips?” Reflecting on his political activism in the 1960s and 1970s, a plainly disenchanted Phillips told the reporter: “At the time I got involved, I thought I could make some social change, but in fact politics is designed to maintain the status quo.”

After Phillips left his job as a Democratic committee member in 1972, he left the political stage and his opportunity to parlay his triumph as a “Negro First” into some more lucrative or high profile endeavors. Both Channing Philips and Julian Bond were sons of well-known fathers in the black community and came from upper middle-class families that could be considered black aristocracy. Coming from a somewhat privileged family, with strong academic credentials, the handsome and eloquent Channing Phillips was blessed with having spent time in the national limelight. Yet, unlike Julian Bond, who used his unsuccessful nomination as a springboard for speaking engagements that brought wider national recognition, accompanied by financial benefits and more political clout that in turn solidified his status a black leader, Phillips appeared to not want to take the time or have the temperament to pursue exploiting his presidential nomination for greater fame and fortune. This left some observers with the impression that he had squandered an opportunity.

Phillips left some of his jobs under a cloud of controversy and while his supporters admired his intellect and ability to argue his point, he was criticized for being distant and hard to get along with. He appears to have had an understanding and genuine sympathy for the suffering of the urban poor and dedicated his life to serving others, but perhaps he did not possess the patience or people skills to funnel that understanding and sympathy into accomplishments that might significantly improve their lot or his own.

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or