Bibb courthouse renamed to honor the late Judge J. Taylor Phillips

pramati@macon.comJanuary 14, 2013 

Julia Manard looked up at her father’s name Monday afternoon on the side of the Bibb County Courthouse and said she couldn’t think of a better or more appropriate honor for the late State Court Judge J. Taylor Phillips.

“I teach English, and I can’t even think of words right now,” said Manard, holding back tears moments before the ceremony dedicating the courthouse to Phillips. “I wish he’d been here for this. This was Daddy’s second home for all 49 years of my life. ... It’s indescribable. It’s such an honor for such a great man. To know everyone loves my daddy, it’s just awesome.”

More than 100 people turned out as Bibb County leaders dedicated the courthouse in honor of Phillips, who was remembered as a community leader.

The effort to rename the courthouse was spearheaded by Commissioner Joe Allen, who secured the signatures of every elected Bibb County official before introducing the proposal to the other commissioners last February. It received unanimous commission approval.

Allen, State Court Judge William P. Adams and Phillip’s oldest daughter, Susan, gave remarks during Monday’s ceremony. Susan Phillips noted that “my father simply loved that courthouse.”

“He took his responsibility to the citizens of Macon and Bibb County seriously,” she said. “He was able to reach out and help out. ... He wanted to be known as someone who helped more than he hurt.”

Judge Phillips, who died June 15, 2012, at the age of 90, served in the Marine Corps during World War II and then in the Korean War, earning a Purple Heart. He sold syrup along the East Coast after his time serving as a Marine before he was convinced to attend Mercer University to get a degree. He said he would attend Mercer if he were accepted in the Walter George School of Law after he graduated.

As a young attorney in the 1950s, Phillips often ate at the restaurant owned by Anjette Lyles, who was later found guilty of murdering two husbands, her mother-in-law and her daughter. Lyles appeared in several documentaries and news stories about the famous murder trial.

Phillips went on to serve as a state representative from 1959-62 and a state senator from 1963-64 before being appointed as a State Court judge by then-Gov. Carl Sanders in 1964.

“I look forward to the challenge and honor that this judicial office will afford, and I pledge my most sincere efforts to maintain a court of dignity and fairness,” Phillips said the first time he was sworn in.

Phillips ran unopposed eight times once he became a judge. He was responsible for getting the name of the court changed from the city court of Macon to State Court, making it the first State Court in Georgia.

“It was clearly visionary of him to come in and make that change,” said Adams, who noted that Phillips often served as his mentor as well as his friend.

It was Phillips who taught Adams the importance of being a judge.

“(He told me) ‘Adams, what you say is the law until the Court of Appeals says otherwise,’ ” Adams said.

Phillips was known for trying to help convicted people try to earn a second chance. He often arranged for inmates he thought deserved a second chance to get an early release just before Christmas.

He also preached to convicts, telling them to fix their lives by finding faith and getting a job.

In addition to Phillips’ name on the side of the courthouse facing Mulberry Street, county officials also unveiled a plaque dedicated to Phillips at the corner of Mulberry and Second streets.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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