Jesse P. Phillips
The Oxford Eagle
Inducted June 16, 2000
Jesse P. Phillips served as publisher and co-owner of The Oxford Eagle for over five decades, providing courageous, enlightened leadership of the Lafayette County daily.
A past president of MPA and one of the founding directors of the MPA Education Foundation, Phillips started his journalism career in junior high school, delivering newspapers on his bicycle in Grenada.
Through the newspaper’s voice Phillips helped facilitate integration of the local schools, provided a steady hand for race relations and stayed involved in economic development efforts.
Former Oxford mayor Richard Howorth said Phillips, through his role at the newspaper, stimulated Oxford’s development and was its cheerleader.
“Jesse has always been a thoughtful supporter of all things positive about Oxford,” Howorth said. “Education and economic development especially come to mind. In City Hall I experienced the vital importance of a community newspaper to its citizens and elected officials, and Jesse’s leadership at The Eagle was one of great significance to Oxford’s character — as was his personal integrity to all of us who had the good fortune to know him.”
Phillips was an active member and leader at First Baptist Church of Oxford. He served as a deacon, on several committees, as head of a major building project and with his wife Jeanette started the Sunflower Sunday School class for special-needs individuals at North Mississippi Regional Center.
In a video made in 2010 by Mykki Newton for Ole Miss Journalism, Phillips was interviewed at length about how he got into the field, his quest to see Oxford schools integrated and his take on the future for newspapers.
In the video, Phillips said he met with a group of people in the 1970s to see what they could do to lead the community from segregation to integration, which was eventually accomplished successfully in Oxford.
“Having a part in leading the people through news stories and editorials, I look at this as one of the most important things, most important issue, we’ve had to be a part of,” Phillips said in the interview.
Phillips served in various positions with the Mississippi Association of College Stores and the Oxford-Lafayette Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Foundation. He was named as one of the Outstanding Young Men of America, selected for induction into the BancorpSouth Hall of Fame, won the Distinguished Jaycee Award, was named Oxford Citizen of the Year in 1980 and was president of Oxford’s Chamber of Commerce.