The story of Porter Phillips and Ada Hollingsworth Phillips is one of love at first sight. It was in Selma, Al that they met at the train station. Porter took one look at her and said to his friend, “I am going to marry that pretty girl!” Ada was engaged to someone else but Porter took care of that! They were married November 20, 1917 in Uniontown, AL and soon after that moved to Starkville in 1917. Porter’s father Lee Phillips and his step-grandmother, Ada Simpson Phillips, lived where the Hampton Inn is located now.
There were ten children born to Porter and Ada Phillips. Two children died at an early age: Mary Elizabeth Phillips (1932) and Nancy Evelyn (1942). The remaining eight children all grew up in Starkville and graduated from Starkville High School. They are:
William Preston Phillips, Walter (Skeeter) Ellis Phillips, James Porter (J.P.), Minnie Delle Phillips, Bessie Pauline Phillips, Annie Louise Phillips, Lee Roy Phillips and Betty Jane Phillips.
From this family 96 have attended Mississippi State University, 72 graduated and 16 are currently attending. A family tradition at Mississippi State University of which they are proud! It all began by taking the family to college at a young age. They would walk the tracks to the to see everything going on at the college. That love of Mississippi State and sporting events grew through the years. No matter what state they live, they all want to come “home” to Mississippi State University to attend college; however a few did chose Ole Miss.
World War II and Pearl Harbor changed the world and lives of the Phillips Family. All four boys joined the service and served overseas. The four sisters married and their husbands also served in the military. Many nights the girls and their mother would sit around the dining table writing letters to the four sons and son-in-laws overseas while praying for their safe return. All eight of them returned safely and began great families of their own.
Porter was a merchant, farmer, trader and the Sheriff of Oktibbeha County. He had a Grade A Dairy which he sold milk to Perry Creamery. His milk cans were labeled No. 2. His “slaughter house” set approximately where the Starkville High Football Practice Field is today. Mother would set up a “hamburger stand” during cattle events and cook hamburgers to sell. Across from their house on Louisville Street, they built a clay tennis court where all their friends in town and the college played. He traded property all over town such as the Valentine house, the Dorman house, the Chester Jarnigan house, the Peters house in Sessums, and the Hampton Ellis house with the white picket fence around it on Russell Street. In 1929, he purchased 20 acres of land on Louisville Road where he built his three bedroom home which cost $28 hundred dollars. This house still stands today holding many fond memories of home to the family. They had a goat cart that they rode down Main Street waving to everyone. One bedroom was for the parents, one for the four boys and one for the four girls. The first remote Radio Station was located in the Hotel Chester and Delle was an accomplished piano player and she would play while Pauline sang during intermissions. People who heard them would congratulate them the next day. Pauline, Louise and Betty played the xylophone in the Starkville High School Band.
Porter built a shotgun type house immediately in the back of the house for the help, Alice Triplett that took care of the children. After Ada’s last child was born, Alice told her that she had taken care of all her children and this would be the last one she would take care of. When the time came, she left on good terms. There was a concrete gold fishpond in the yard and a dollhouse for the children to play in. Bittie Puller on Greensboro Street is the only other one in town. It had shutters and curtains over the windows, and lights, etc. In the back yard was a “house” cow. Every morning, Ada, would get up and milk the cow to make fresh biscuits for the family. Porter Phillips table blessing: Bless thee, Lord, Bless these, and for all they other blessings, we humbly beg, for Christ sake. Amen. When Mama Ada called someone “Chesterfield, Sputsy, Spoonagator,” We all knew exactly what she meant! The worst word I ever heard Mama say was “darn” and then she would remark, “See what you kids made me say!”
The family attended First Baptist Church every Sunday. They walked to church three or four blocks every Sunday and attended youth services on Sunday evening. They walked to
School every day where they all enjoyed all the sporting events from baseball, basketball and football, etc. One was so good he made the semipros.
As the eight children grew up, there was no television, so we had to play our own games such as King Tut, paper dolls, slingshots, riding in the goat cart, craw fishing, roller skating on sidewalks, jump rope, Mama, May I, Pop the Whip, hopscotch, hide and seek, etc.
“Kambo, Karo, Aro, Jaro, Rack-astack, penny winkle, flam a doodle, yellow bug, Molly, won’t you come-bo” is a tongue twister Grandpa Lee Phillips taught his grandchildren while sitting on his knee.
One of the songs Mama Ada sang to her children as she played the piano was “Frere Jacques, Frere Jacques, Dormez vous? Dormez vous? Sonnez les matines, sonnez les matines, din, din, don, din, din, don.” Mama Ada played by ear and was also church organist before she married. Mama Ada would make us behave by threatening to call “Old Mac Squirter.”
Four of the Phillips original eight children are still living – two in Starkville, Lee Roy and Pauline; and Betty in McLean, VA and Delle in Fayette, AR
What wonderful memories we all have -some make us cry but more of them make us smile. And even though we might remember in different ways, we all cherish the memories of Porter and Ada Phillips and the family they nourished. Of all the blessings Pa Porter and Mama Ada gave their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, the most important was witnessing their faith and having the certain knowledge that one day all the tears will be wiped away.
Porter and Ada Phillips reared their eight children with love for Christ and love for each other, with respect for themselves and for others, and with love for our country. Those born into this family are grateful for their strong belief in right and wrong, in self-sufficiency, and each of us trying to make the world a little better. This is a legacy that we treasure and take pride in our stories and memories of our Phillips family.
Porter and Ada Phillips both worked for J. W. Sanders Textile Mill and worked in the spinning room. They made 80 cents a day. After they quit working at the mill, Porter started selling “iced down meat” out of a tub under a cedar tree on Mill Street. Then they put in a little store called Phillips Grocery and Meat Market on Gillespie Street about where the turntable is in Needmore. They sold meat, vegetables and other groceries. When they closed, they let all the mill people have all that was in the store, because their dad said, “they needed it.” From there they moved to town across from the First Baptist Church on the corner of Lampkin and Lafayette Street (Larry Mullins CFP/CIS is today). They sold meat in their store until the meat inspection law was passed. Ada took orders by phone and they were delivered to homes. In 1940 Porter was elected sheriff of Oktibbeha County. His son, Preston, was the tax collector and John High was deputy sheriff. In those days two main jobs of the sheriff were whiskey stills and taking the insane to Whitfield. Riding through the county, he would spot smoke coming up out of no where and later go back and investigate to find a whiskey still. Taking people to Whitfield, he had to have someone in the car with him and would take one of his family so they got to go on trips and see things that others did not have the opportunity.
Lee Roy Phillips, son of Porter and Ada, is an excellent writer and wrote a poem to each of them as follows.
He was our county sheriff during World War II
He and one deputy patrolled the county through and through
They worked hard both day and night.
They arrested many moonshiners and destroyed their stills
Located in swamps, woods, thickets or foot of a hill.
Caught record number of rustlers in his first year.
You had to leave the county even buy a beer.
The county was dry, no beer or wine.
The joints all moved across the county line.
If you broke the law regardless of what you thought.
He would not stop till you were caught.
Everyone who knew him knew where he stood.
He was going to keep the county safe any way he could.
He taught many young men how to stay on right road
How to be respectable and carry their share of the load.
He loved his God, Family and his state.
Worked hard his years to keep his county great.
To me, he’s my hero, idol, best friend I ever had.
I’m so proud of him, for he’s my Dad.
This is about a special person in my life.
Mother of ten children and my daddy’s wife.
Worked hard and supported daddy through the years.
Many happy times and sometime sad with tears.
She had beautiful complexion, loveliest skin you’ve ever seen.
Fixed her face every day, for she was Porter’s queen.
She knew what to do when an insect bite began to itch
Do something wrong and she would make you cut a switch.
When I wanted to go somewhere and daddy said no
I would get her to plead for me and he would let me go.
She loved her grandchildren whether boy or girl
When she was holding them, she was on top of the world.
She was still lovely at age eighty
A true gracious, kind southern lady
Thanks Mom and Dad for Memories we had
We praise God for our special Mom and Dad.
Thanks Mama and Daddy for steering us down life’s road
Always do right and carry our share of load
Teaching us about God and How to Love and pray
When our journeys over to all be with God one day.