James Dickson Phillips '43
What a pleasure it is to honor a Phi Beta Kappa, baseball team captain, and Airborne platoon leader whose graduation in 1943 marked the departure point for combat service that earned him the Purple Heart, Invasion Arrow, and Bronze Star for valor. Armed with such impressive credentials and a North Carolina birth certificate, he entered law school at Chapel Hill in 1948 as the first step toward a highly distinguished career of service to his state and nation.
Private law practice served as the prelude to becoming an educator. The Law School called him back first as faculty member, then Dean, and finally Alumni Distinguished Professor. In those roles he helped, by precept and example, to imbue a generation of North Carolina attorneys and future legislators with his own sense of fairness, devotion to principle, and respect both for the law and for the human beings subject to it. The North Carolina Bar Association recognized him with its most prestigious honors, the Liberty Bell and the John J. Parker Awards, and The University added the Thomas Jefferson Award as well.
As a Trustee of Davidson for two decades, he earned the universal respect and appreciation of fellow alumni. The College Constitution, largely a product of his keen analytical mind and common-sense wisdom, continues after twenty-five years to guide institutional policy decisions. An elder in his church, he was a natural to head the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. National recognition came when President Carter appointed him in 1978 to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, where he has served with great distinction.
Because your career as educator and jurist has reflected humaneness as well as high intelligence, because you have demonstrated in your life a faith that is both real and relevant, and because you have brought high honor to the alma mater you have served so wisely and willingly, the Davidson College Alumni Association is proud to present to you, James Dickson Phillips, on this day, May 29, 1997, its Distinguished Alumnus Award.