Basil Philips


A Visit With Basil Phillips

Carole J. McCollough

In the recent past whenever I come to Chicago and meet up with Satia Orange, CSK's ALA staff liaison, who is also a friend, a visit with Basil is always on the agenda. He lives in an assisted living/extended care facility in downtown Chicago. He is always glad to see us. His one room apartment is furnished with a round walnut table and four padded dining chairs. There is an upholstered easy chair and a commode that houses the television, a few books and recent issues of Ebony magazine. The windows are tastefully draped over the institutional blinds. The walls are covered with Basil's treasures, paintings, drawings and a select few photos. There are always fresh flowers on the table or at his bedside. We bring replacements. Basil does not do much walking these days so a wheelchair is also a part of the room's furnishings.

Though there is a communal dining room, Basil (being Basil), an admitted snob, takes most of his meals alone in his room. On this day, Basil was not in his room when we arrived, but at therapy. When the staff brought him back to his room he was noticeably pleased to see us. When we told him the special purpose for this visit was to deliver to him an original painting from Jerry Pinkney in appreciation of the years of corporate support he facilitated and personal support he gave to the CSK, Basil's face lit up with joy. He was visually touched by the thoughtfulness of the CSK Book Award Committee, and certainly of Jerry Pinkney himself. We assured him that all praise goes to the tenacity Henrietta Smith who used her personal relationship with Jerry to secure this special tribute. He loved the piece and was impressed that Mr. Pinkney did it specifically for him.

We stayed long enough to assure Mr. Phillips a rich and fulfilling visit, but not so long as to exhaust him. Upon leaving we both felt the type of warmth that accompanies a satisfying experience. We will visit him again, and hope you will do the same.

You may send him a holiday greeting: Basil Phillips at Warren-Barr Pavilion, 66 W. Oak St., Rm. 625, Chicago, Il 60610.

The News: Mr. Phillips' Passing

The Notice from the Johnson Publishing Company

The Johnson Publishing Company family is mourning the loss of our beloved Photo Librarian, Basil O. Phillips, who died Monday, August 27, 2007 at 6 p.m. We know how much Basil was treasured by the Library and Book Publishing worlds.

Basil also was director of special markets and promotions for the Johnson Publishing Company Book Division. Since 1964, he managed the Johnson Publishing Company booths at more than 100 national conventions and he organized special promotions and exhibitions for more than 500 organizations.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, September 8, 2007, from 6 to 8 p.m. South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 South Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60649; (773) 256-0149.

—Pamela Cash, Media Resources Department, Johnson Publishing Company

Sad News about Basil Phillips

Dear colleagues,

Pamela Cash of Johnson Publishing Company, Inc. contacted me today about Basil Phillips, who died last evening, Monday, August 27, 2007.

A memorial service is planned at the Chicago South Shore Cultural Center on Saturday, September 8, 2007 from 6 to 8 PM.

Basil was a longtime supporter of the Coretta Scott King Award, representing Johnson Publishing Company, Inc. since the award jury's early beginnings, and was a longtime exhibitor at ALA and other conferences. Basil LOVED the King award, and welcomed each opportunity to present the Johnson Company donation of $1,000 each year to the winning author at the awards breakfast at each annual conference.

He was respected by King jury and award winners, SRRT Coretta Scott King task force members, and EMIERT Coretta Scott King committee members for many years. Many ALA conferees looked forward to greeting him at the JPC's exhibit booth each year.

A tribute to Basil may be found at which includes photographs of:

  1. a tribute to him from King committee members, when he retired last year, and
  2. the presentation of original art from King (and notable other) award-winning artist Jerry Pinkney
  3. a commentary from Carole McCollough, 2008 Coretta Scott King jury chair, during her visit with him last year.

Details for contribution options are forthcoming.

Saturday evening I was privileged to attend the memorial service for Basil O. Phillips, photo editor for Johnson Publishing Co., publishers of Ebony & Jet magazines, and several books on African American history.

Basil was a friend of mine, and my parents, and was included in many of my memories of attending ALA conferences as a child, and later as a librarian. As noted often during the service, Basil was usually the only Black salesperson, especially in the early, pre-civil rights days, at ALA and others of the dozens of conferences he attended each year. The 'Ebony-Jet' booth was certainly the only long-term Black publishing company exhibiting at ALA, and always the center of attention and congestion by Black conferees. The tribute from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA), read at the service (attached) pays tribute to his legacy and honors his life.

Basil distinguished himself as the first of the sponsors of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards, each year on the podium, presenting the honorarium to the author award winner. He was missing (and missed) at the 2006 awards breakfast, due to his diabetes. He was living at the Warren-Barr Pavilion on Oak Street, here in Chicago.

Last spring several members of the King Awards committee sent a signed plaque dedicated to Basil's contributions to the awards over 37 years, presented on their behalf by Dr. Carole McCollough, past committee chair. Award-winning artist and children's illustrator Jerry Pinkney also sent a painting, proudly hung in Basil's apartment at Warren-Barr. Photographs of Basil holding both are seen at

I'm writing this internal tribute because Basil was a true trailblazer for and at American Library Association conferences, and I don't want his name or efforts to be forgotten by staff or members. Though not a librarian, Basil was a quiet warrior, who believed in our work, supported our efforts, valued our members, and also advocated in his own way for those millions who benefitted from libraries. He sponsored many initiatives in Chicago's public libraries, where his prized collection of books will be housed.

His accolades as the curator of literally millions of historic photographs of the world's most favorite and famous African American history-makers adds to his stated achievements. His ability to support, respect, connect and mobilize activities that drew people to the printed word and to each other, are stories that are documented at Johnson Publishing Company, in libraries, museums and archives around the world, and among his wide community of friends and colleagues.

But to us, at ALA, he should be remembered as someone who made the difference at our conferences, standing tall for Black librarians especially, then and now. He alerted all of us as conferees that our work mattered. Even as a publishing representative, he supported the work librarians do, and appreciated those of us dedicated to the delivery of library services to communities.

Basil was "picky" and meticulous in manner, and he expected us to be the same about our work. He was a gentleman and a gentle man. The yellow flowers always seen at his conference booth just touched the surface of his kindness and demeanor.

ALA mattered to Basil Phillips, and Basil should matter to ALA, like the other nameless advocates with whom we connect and then too often forget. Let's remember his name today. Basil Phillips.

—Satia Marshall Orange, Director, Office for Literacy and Outreach Services (OLOS), American Library Association;; Sent: Tue 8/28/2007 6:27 pm    


Reaction and Respect from the Community

Basil Oliphant Phillips was more than the "gentlemen who for years sat on the podium at the CSK Breakfast." When CSK was having serious financial difficulties, Mr. Phillips is the hero who brought and kept Johnson Publishing as an "angel" and an active sponsor of the Awards.

I cannot recall the year now but it was in the mid 80s that CSK presented Mr. Johnson with a special recognition. I happened to get on the elevator in the Palmer House with Mr. Johnson. He clearly remarked how surprised he was to discover the breakfast was held in one of larger Ballrooms. He had expected the meeting to be in one of the many small parlors in the Palmer House convention facilities. Mr. Johnson remarked on what a delightful surprise it was for him to find so many African American librarians gathered together. He further related how Basil had been telling him for years how important the group was to the world of publishing, but he had no idea it would command such a large audience. As I think back Mr. Johnson made these comments in the elevator and in his remarks from the podium.

Basil O. Phillips should be remembered and memorialized as one of the early pioneers in the creation of CSK along with E. J. Glyndon and others.

Who among us didn't search for the Johnson Publishing booth on the exhibit floor knowing you could find a place to sit for a moment and organize the treasures you collected from other vendors and get a piece of peppermint candy? His wit and insight into our profession and the world of publishing will be missed.

—Billy C. Beal, Meridian Community College, bbeal@MCC.CC.MS.US

My Dear Billy Beal,

I second that "emotion." Yes, Basil was more than anyone can ever imagine. A true treasure has been removed from our ranks.... not only for those of us in the Library and Information profession..... because Basil was a true "race man." I would often talk with him about whose funeral he had just attended. He would pull out the funeral program..... and right there unload an extensive biography about that person and that person's value to the community.

Our loss is great, and I will add Dear Basil to the list of librarians who have made their transition between 2002–2007.

Billy, I think your memories below, should be published in the BCALA Newsletter.... for the record, and that there should be a tribute in a forthcoming issue. Basil was so very supportive of me while I directed OLOS and had responsibility for the CSK Breakfast. He even helped us "get the list straight" when we compiled the first bibliography (pamphlet brochure) for all the books that had won the award. That was the hardest thing to do, because in 1988–1989 no one had kept a complete list of winners!!!

Basil assisted me in reconciling that list, once the committee had the titles of the books they recalled had won the award!!! He helped with that research, and I will be forever grateful.

With heartfelt sympathy,

—Sibyl E. Moses

Basil was an elegant man. He kept us on our toes. I am glad to have know him.

—Fran Ware

I'm so sorry to hear this sad news. . .

—Andrea Pinkney

I was sorry to hear of the passing of Mr. Basil Phillips. He was a special person with high standards with great love for the CSK awards. He will be missed. Is there an address to send condolences?

—Loretta Dowell

Thanks for sharing. I was not aware of who he was. This is just one of the reasons BCALA needs to document and preserve its’ history. Thanks for taking the time to educate and inform.


—Wanda K. Brown

Oh this is sad. I'll miss his funny smile.

—Tanga Morris

Dear CSK Members,

Thank you for letting us know about Basil. He was indeed a dear friend and supporter, and a very proud gentleman. I am sure he would not want to linger in a state of "not knowing"

We have indeed lost a dear friend and supporter the depth of whose vigilance and caring many will never know.

I hope that Basil had time to enjoy the tribute which the Task Force sent while he was in the care center. Basil and Artist Jerry Pinkney were a tiny mutual admiration society and Jerry so generously gave the Task Force the original painting which Carole and Satia took to him.

May we all remember Basil as a friend and pray that he rests in peace

Farewell "Bahama Boy,"


Hi Henriette,

The spirits surely wall with us. Last night, thoughts of Basil came to my mind, and I remembered the wonderful time we had with Basil... especially the trip to Chicago when he drove use around in his car. I was not aware of his passing at the time the thoughts and his images came to me.

—Ann Miller

I have to agree with Billy Beal, Sibyl Moses, and Wanda Brown on the need for BCALA to take a lead in documenting and preserving our history and the responsibility we all must take in research, writing and publishing this history. Perhaps a committee or task force could be developed to set up a systematic way to do this (yes, I would volunteer to be part of such an effort). Although our research most appropriately belongs in the research journals, memories, narratives, short pieces, etc. are appropriate for the newsletter and I would enjoy seeing more of those there. It is especially important because the newsletter is indexed and therefore would make the information retrievable for generations to come.

Billy Beal has made such contributions to the BCALA Newsletter before and as suggested by Dr. Moses, I hope she submits her memories of Mr. Basil Phillips to the newsletter.

—Lorna Peterson,

If we don't salute our elders, who will?

—Rosemary E. Reed Miller;

Ashe! Billy. And even now, when I passed by the Johnson Publications booth at ALA, I expected to see Basil there, immaculately dressed, a genuinely welcoming smile and a great conversation and yes, the peppermint candy.

Rest in Peace, Basil.


—Andrew P Jackson;

The Late Basil Phillips-

I just wanted to take the time out on a personal note to put in my two cents concerning Mr. Basil Phillips. I had the pleasure of working with Mr. Phillips from 1998 until 2002, at Johnson Publishing Company. He had asked me numerous times to call him Basil but, I just could never utter his first name. I always called him "Mr. Phillips". This would always cause a rolling of his eyes which was quickly followed by a warm smile. From the first day that I met him, he commanded so much respect from me. Not because of anything that he said, but because I learned so much from him and respected him so. He was a walking encyclopedia of all the famous folks past and present, who had graced the halls of Johnson Publishing company. I would often go up to his office on the 8th floor when I needed to get my fix of his humor, education, and love of what he did. So many times he was not only able to locate a particular photo that I needed but, he was also able to tell you who took it and the surrounding circumstances behind the photo. What a memory!

One other factoid that I would like to inject is that Mr. Phillips had an enormous collection of neckties. I don't think I ever saw him wear the same one twice! Each tie had a story behind it, which I loved to just listen to and discover how good Mr. Phillips was at conveying a story and making you laugh! Often reminding me of the great Paul Harvey! I must say that I helped Mr. Phillips add to his necktie collection, by presenting him with several during my time at Johnson Publishing Company.

He will be missed. Mr. Phillips is thought of often by not only myself, but by others who knew the kind of wonderful human being that he truly was.

—Dona V. Robertson; winchez23@YAHOO.COM    


Resolution of Respect for Basil Oliphant Phillips

Whereas, God, our loving Father, in the light of His wisdom, and in the magnitude of His power, has removed from our profession and from our Chain of Friendship, a shining link in the name of our dearest Brother Basil Oliphant Phillips, and added it to the Friendship Chain of His Kingdom, and

Whereas, Brother Basil O. Phillips, a steadfast advisor, and an avid, loyal, and invaluable supporter and sustainer of the American Library Association’s Coretta Scott King Book Award, whose departure we so deeply feel and whose life has been an example of Christian fortitude to his family, his friends, and his colleagues throughout this nation, and

Whereas, Brother Basil O. Phillips, lent his gifts to the library profession as a friend, mentor, and a tireless fighter, and who, for decades, supported the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Inc. and the American Library Association’s Social Responsibilities Task Force in many capacities, and

Whereas, Brother Basil O. Phillips, further lent his gifts to the library profession and this nation as a tireless promoter of works created by African American authors and illustrators, and who, for decades empowered this nation by preserving images documenting African American history and culture, and

Whereas, the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Inc., the entire library profession, and the people throughout this nation have sustained a great loss in the home going of Brother Basil O. Phillips, therefore be it

Resolved, that we eulogize his memory by trying to bring into our own lives that professionalism, coupled with commitment, sweetness, power, great joy, and beauty that made his life a worthy pattern for our emulation, and that we earnestly try to live as unselfishly as did Brother Basil O. Phillips, and be it further

Resolved, that the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Inc., express its sincere sympathy to the family of Brother Basil O. Phillips, that we place a copy of this resolution in the permanent archives of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Inc., and that we also send a copy of this resolution to the members of Brother Basil O. Phillips’s family and the Johnson Publishing Company in order to show to his loved ones the high esteem in which we hold his life and his memory.

One by one the links are severed
from the golden chain of life;
One by one our order’s forming
In the Father’s House above.
Let our deeds be pure and noble
May our lives be not in vain
So that when the links are welded
Complete again will be the chain.

Respectfully submitted,
The Officers and Members of The Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Inc.
Wanda K. Brown
Wanda K. Brown, President
September 8, 2007