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Lanier W. Phillips

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Information about Lanier W. Phillips

Profile image of Lanier W. Phillips

Profession

Category:
MilitaryMakers
Occupation(s):
Sonar Technician

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Seafood
Favorite Time of Year:
All Seasons
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Brazil
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
3/14/1923
Birth Location:
Lithonia, Georgia

Profession

Category:
MilitaryMakers
Occupation(s):
Sonar Technician

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Seafood
Favorite Time of Year:
All Seasons
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Brazil
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
3/14/1923
Birth Location:
Lithonia
See how Lanier W. Phillips is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Sonar technician Lanier Phillips was born on March 14, 1923, in Lithonia, Georgia, to sharecroppers. Phillips attended the Yellow River School, the only colored school in DeKalb County, until it was burned down by the Ku Klux Klan in 1929. As a remedy, Phillips was sent to live with relatives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1932; there he attended Main Street Elementary School and Howard High School in Chattanooga until he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1941, at the age of eighteen, in order to escape the rigors of sharecropping in the South.

In the Navy, Phillips faced strict segregation. After boot camp, aboard the U.S.S. Truxton, Phillips began working in the mess hall alongside other sailors of color. In February 1942, the U.S.S. Truxton, the Pollux, and the Wilkes capsized off the coast of Newfoundland; 110 sailors were killed aboard the Truxton alone. Phillips was the sole African American survivor, finding refuge aboard the last raft. A group of Canadian townspeople rescued Phillips and 185 white sailors. Phillips would go on serve in battle with the U.S. Navy several times throughout the course of World War II.

In the 1950s, Phillips applied to the U.S. Navy’s Fleet Sonar School; he received a letter of recommendation to this post from Congressman Charles Diggs of Michigan. In 1957, Phillips became the U.S. Navy’s first black sonar technician. Phillips retired from the U.S. Navy in 1961, and began work as a civil technician with EG & G, a systems engineering firm; at this time he also began work with the ALVIN deep water submersible team. Phillips later joined the deep sea exploration team of Jacques Cousteau and assisted in the development of deep sea lamp technology.

During the 1960s, Phillips marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Selma, Alabama. In 1977, after his wife’s death, Phillips sought relief from the growing racial tensions of northern cities, so he moved his family to his hometown of Lithonia, Georgia.

Lanier Phillips passed away on May 20, 2012.

See how Lanier W. Phillips is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Lanier W. Phillips' interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Lanier W. Phillips lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Lanier W. Phillips describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Lanier W. Phillips describes the racial violence in Lithonia, Georgia
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Lanier W. Phillips describes his father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Lanier W. Phillips recalls his experiences of racial violence in Lithonia, Georgia
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Lanier W. Phillips recalls the burning of the Yellow River School by the Ku Klux Klan
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Lanier W. Phillips talks about his schooling in Lithonia, Georgia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Lanier W. Phillips remembers attending school in Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Lanier W. Phillips remembers Howard High School in Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Lanier W. Phillips recalls visiting his family in Lithonia, Georgia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Lanier W. Phillips recall his decision to enlist in the U.S. Navy
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Lanier W. Phillips talks about his education
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Lanier W. Phillips recalls joining the U.S. Navy
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Lanier W. Phillips recalls his first year in the U.S. Navy
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Lanier W. Phillips talks about his early voyages in the U.S. Navy
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Lanier W. Phillips remembers the shipwreck of the USS Truxtun
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Lanier W. Phillips describes how he survived the wreck of the USS Truxtun
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Lanier W. Phillips recalls his recovery in Canada after the wreck of the USS Truxtun
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Lanier W. Phillips talks about returning to the United States after the wreck of the USS Truxtun
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Lanier W. Phillips recalls serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Lanier W. Phillips recalls his combat experiences during World War II
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Lanier W. Phillips remembers the end of World War II
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Lanier W. Phillips recalls his experiences of discrimination after World War II
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Lanier W. Phillips recalls his racist commanding officer in the U.S. Navy
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Lanier W. Phillips remembers serving in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Lanier W. Phillips recalls the U.S. Navy's treatment of African Americans
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Lanier W. Phillips talks about recognition for his service on the USS Truxtun
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Lanier W. Phillips remembers entering the Fleet Sonar School
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Lanier W. Phillips recalls graduating from Flight Sonar School in Key West, Florida
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Lanier W. Phillips talks about working as a sonar technician in the U.S. Navy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Lanier W. Phillips recalls his work with Jacques Cousteau, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Lanier W. Phillips recalls his work with Jacques Cousteau, pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Lanier W. Phillips talks about his wife and children
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Lanier W. Phillips talks about his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Lanier W. Phillips describes the community of Selma, Alabama
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Lanier W. Phillips remembers Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Lanier W. Phillips talks about raising his children in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Lanier W. Phillips remembers moving to Georgia after his wife's death
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Lanier W. Phillips talks about his work as a motivational speaker
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Lanier W. Phillips reflects upon his life
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Lanier W. Phillips describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Lanier W. Phillips shares a message to future generations
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Lanier W. Phillips narrates his photographs