The former Illinois Senate president, James "Pate" Philip, a pivotal figure in state politics, passed away at his home in Wood Dale, Illinois, on Tuesday. He was 93.
Philip’s tenure in Illinois politics spanned over three decades, leaving a significant imprint on the state's legislative landscape.
Philip's political career began in 1966 with his election to the Illinois House of Representatives. He ascended to the role of Illinois Senate president in 1993, becoming the longest-tenured Republican in that position. His career in state legislature extended over 30 years, marked by significant political and legislative achievements.
Remarkably, Philip balanced his political career with a nearly 40-year tenure as a salesman for Pepperidge Farm. His ability to juggle these responsibilities showcased his dedication and work ethic. Philip's personal life was equally rich, married to Nancy Philip for 46 years, fathering four children, and enjoying his role as a grandfather to nine.
Philip was not just a political figure but a family man, deeply rooted in his community and personal relationships. This duality of his public and private life added depth to his character and appeal, Sun Times reported.
His influence extended beyond his immediate legislative duties. As the chair of the DuPage County Republicans for over three decades, Philip built a powerful suburban Republican organization. This achievement highlighted his strategic and organizational skills, making him a key figure in the Republican Party.
Philip was known for his blunt remarks, often stirring controversy. His outspoken nature sometimes led to calls for his resignation. However, these aspects of his personality were overshadowed by his legislative accomplishments, particularly his reforms aimed at addressing corruption in Chicago school boards.
His colleagues remembered him as an intimidating and larger-than-life figure. Philip's reputation in the political arena was that of a man of integrity and patriotism, especially noted for his service as a U.S. Marine during the Korean War from 1951 to 1953. He often displayed the Marine Corps flag at his inaugurations, a symbol of his pride and service.
Philip's legislative achievements, including responsible budget management and suburban tax caps, were among his proudest moments. These efforts showcased his commitment to fiscal responsibility and governance.
Philip's impact on Illinois politics was recognized nationally. Former Presidents Reagan and Ford, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, and New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean acknowledged his influence and ability to deliver votes.
The late Mayor Harold Washington, a political adversary, and former Mayor Jane Byrne both had strong opinions about Philip, reflecting the contentious nature of his political career. Despite these conflicts, Philip's influence and effectiveness in Illinois politics were undeniable.
"I want people to understand when they look at his style, he came from a different era. He had impeccable integrity. He was very patriotic as an ex-U.S. Marine. And most importantly, his word was his bond, whether you were a political ally or an opponent."
Philip's style was reflective of a different era in politics, characterized by a straightforward and sometimes contentious approach. Yet, those who knew him closely emphasized his integrity and commitment.
Reflecting on Philip's career, colleagues described him as a formidable presence in Illinois politics. His background as a "big German truck driver" and his unwavering support for Republican principles were highlighted.
His ability to navigate the political landscape and implement his vision was a testament to his skill and determination. Philip's influence extended beyond the legislative chambers, impacting the broader political discourse in Illinois.
Philip's final thoughts on his life and career were imbued with a sense of gratitude and patriotism. He often expressed his appreciation for the opportunities America provided, emphasizing the country's greatness despite its imperfections.
"We are so lucky to be Americans, the greatest country in the history of the world. Is it perfect? No. But, if you can’t make it in America, you can’t make it. I don’t care what your color is, what your religion, you are so lucky to be an American."
Please share this article on Twitter and Facebook to honor the memory and legacy of James "Pate" Philip.