/Mississippi sports could use many more officials like Hattiesburg’s Forrest Phillips

Mississippi sports could use many more officials like Hattiesburg’s Forrest Phillips

Phillips was always available to assist anyone who needed him as a referee. Phillips loved sports, just like his father. He was a respected official in south Mississippi. This is a rare position for officials who don’t usually get much respect from fans, players or coaches. It was so that Tuesday night in Amite, La., a high school official was required. He drove two hours each way and spent three hours running up and down hardwood floors blowing his whistle. He was finally done and headed home. He didn’t make it. He was killed in a collision on U.S. 98 in rural Walthall County. Both drivers of the cars were killed. There were no passengers. Forrest Charles Phillips Jr. was sixty years old. This week, coaches and officials across the southern region of the state are mourning – male and female, black and white, private school and publicly school. Tony Vance, Hattiesburg High’s head football coach and athletic director, said that Forest was an amazing official, a great man, and as genuine as they get. He was always on a level playing field. He’d tell you if he missed one. You appreciate guys such as that,” said Steve Knight, William Carey’s Hall of Fame basketball coach. “Who didn’t like Forrest?” He was a great guy. He was a consistent official and was well-versed in any sport. He was a professional.” Robert Holloway, who oversees officials for Mississippi High School Activities Association says that Forrest would be the most respected official association in the country if there were about 100 of them. He was positive and professional. He never got rattled. Forrest was a great addition to your crew. It’s more than just knowing the rules and being able to see clearly. It’s also about judgement, patience, and temperament. It’s not about being called a blind S.O.B. It’s about not letting it bother your. These guys in striped shirts, despite the abuses they receive from fans and coaches, aren’t getting rich. The minimum salary for officiating high school football games in Mississippi is $100. It’s $60 for basketball. It’s $80 for baseball. All expenses are your responsibility. You purchase your uniforms, shoes, and equipment. It’s no surprise that there is a shortage in high school administrators across the country, including Mississippi. Holloway stated that some of the state’s district associations don’t have enough officers. It’s becoming a problem. We don’t have enough younger people to replace the older men. The truth is that a lot of the younger ones quit because of a dearth of sportsmanship from the fans and coaches.” Les Triplett, executive Director of the Mid-South Association of Independent Schools said, “We have older officials, who should probably be retired, but who stay on because there’s a shortage.” Forrest Phillips was inspired to officiate by his father Charlie who, at age 83, still umpires MLB games. Forrest Charles Phillips Sr. is his real name. Clay Phillips, his younger brother, goes by Chip. A few years back, all four Phillips men umpired the same high-school baseball game. They wanted to experience it. It was free. Chip said, “It was down at Leake County.” Clay was third, Dad was third. Grandpop was first and I was second. It was great fun,” Chip Phillips admitted that he felt criticized by coaches when he started officiating. He called his dad who advised him to be respectful, listen to them and call it the best he could. He said, “This is difficult for me, and hard for us all.” He was my hero and my idol.” *** It is important to note that all four Phillips men are Ole Missmen. Forrest Phillips was a baseball and football manager for the Rebels in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Jake Gibbs, a former Ole Miss baseball coach and one of the state’s greatest athletes, called him “the best manager I have ever had.” He was more than the New York Yankees manager I had. You would come in to the locker room every day and see that the shoes and helmets were clean, the floors were spotless, and the uniforms were neatly hung. Forrest was always asking you what you wanted him to do. He was a hard worker. This has really hurt me. He was a truly wonderful person. “I can’t believe it happened,” Charles Green, who is responsible for assigning football officials to the Hattiesburg-area club, was emotional Thursday when he spoke about his friend. Green stated that Forrest was positive in all situations. Green said that Forrest had a calm demeanor and a way to settle down coaches and put them at ease. He was a very lovable person and would do anything to help anyone.” Green stopped before adding, “This hit us down the same way Kobe’s news hit all the world. We are just shocked. Although I didn’t know Kobe Bryant, I did know Forrest Phillips. He was a great man. “… This is a hit.”