By Connie W. Adams
On Wednesday morning, April 5, the spirit of our beloved friend, Elwood Phillips, took its flight into the haven of rest. He was 83 years old. His busy and fruitful life was hindered at times by numerous health problems but these became only temporary setbacks. He was always thinking ahead and planning more work to do. The last two or three years were especially difficult. For over two years he was on kidney dialysis three times a week. Then circulation problems made it necessary to remove his left leg below the knee. Then they had to remove the right leg above the knee. Even after that, he worked on a bulletin which was handed out at South Livingston in Tampa, where he and Polly attended.
I first met Elwood and Polly in 1950 in Lake City, Florida. Since then our paths crossed many times. After he and James P. Miller began Searching the Scriptures in January 1960, we had a gentleman’s agreement confirmed simply by a handshake, that should it become necessary for him to give up the work with Searching the Scriptures, I would have first opportunity to take up that work. He never forgot and in June 1973, that became a reality when he could no longer carry the load of editing and publishing the paper with his developing heart problems. But as long as I had material from his pen, it was on the front page of the paper and he never failed to offer sound advice when it was needed.
That work created a bond between us which only strengthened as the years passed. I am convinced that his most lasting work in the kingdom was through Searching the Scriptures. He was a preacher of great ability. He and Polly made many friends and served as parents and grandparents to a host of young people whose lives were greatly influenced for good by them. But the products of his pen reached around the world. His book on Scriptural Elders and Deacons remains the best work available on the subject. It has been circulated in many countries. But Searching the Scriptures came to be circulated regularly in every state and in 25 countries. At one point the circulation reached 12,000. When I began editing the paper in 1973, our first printing was still 8,000 copies. One of our special issues required three printings and sold over 20,000 copies. The influence of the paper was particularly strong in the southeast. It played a major role in helping many brethren to stand as churches were being divided over the institutional issues. The paper lasted 33 years. While I served as editor for the last 19½ years, it was the course charted by H.E. Phillips that continued through the history of the paper. In the first issue he stated “We have no policy but to be scriptural, fair and balanced.” That well summarized the content of the paper throughout its history.
Elwood was a man of principle. He was not swayed by popular sentiment nor political expediency. His first concern was always with truth and right. He laid no claim to perfection and would have been the first to acknowledge blunders along the way. But his bedrock convictions, founded solidly upon the word of God, were not for sale to any paper, school, or human agency. Such a course made him some enemies. In later years there were some brethren of powerful influence who ignored him.
Elwood and Polly had a great influence in their family circle. All three children, all grandchildren, and all of the great-grandchildren who are old enough have obeyed the gospel and are faithful to the Lord.
Funeral services were conducted on Saturday, April 8, 2000 at Hutchison Auditorium on the campus of Florida College. According to the funeral home people, about 450 were in attendance. Mike Willis, J.T. Smith, this writer, Tom O’Neal and Donnie Rader took part in the services. Congregational singing was directed by Ray Hines. Burial was at Sylvan Abbey in Clearwater in a peaceful and beautiful setting. Harry Osborne spoke briefly at the grave and final prayer was led by Rhymer Knight.
Elwood is at rest. But the family and a great host of friends will miss him. Our love and best wishes go to Polly, Carolyn, Juanita, Elaine and the rest of the family. This writer has a huge empty place in his life by the death of this giant of the faith.
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