Skip to main content

Paul I. Phillips papers

Identifier: Collection 006

Scope and Contents

This collection contains news clippings about the progress of non-whites in Grand Rapids community. These clippings show the influence of Phillips. His writings and speeches helped change the attitudes toward minorities in Grand Rapids. The file also contains a sociological study by Phillips on ten inter-cultural areas of Grand Rapids. There is also miscellaneous material about Phillips, including an evaluation of his membership in the Urban League.


  • 1947-1979

Biographical Note

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Paul Phillips (1914-Jan. 31, 1976) received a track scholarship to Marquette University in Milwaukee. He then received his MS and Ph.D. in Sociology from Fisk University in 1936. Phillips came to Grand Rapids in 1946 and in 1947 became executive director of the Grand Rapids Urban League. In 1951 Phillips won a position on the City Charter Revision Commission. In 1962 he was the first African American to win a position on the Board of Education in Grand Rapids. Phillips was awarded the PTA's Council Distinguished Award in 1967. In 1972 Phillips received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Grand Valley State College. Three years later, Phillips became Vice Chairman for President Gerald Ford on minority affairs. He also served on the Board of Michigan Mental Health Society as member and President.

Phillips' wife, Ethel Phillips, was also active in the community supporting black rights.


0.5 Linear Feet (Two boxes)

Language of Materials



Paul I. Phillips (1914-1976) was an African American community services leader of Grand Rapids, Michigan. This collection contains news clippings, writings, speeches, memorabilia and biographical information on Phillips.

Phillips came to Grand Rapids in 1946 to work for the Borough Community Association of Grand Rapids. Working with the board, he affiliated this organization with the National Urban League. Phillips served as executive secretary/director for the Grand Rapids Urban League from 1947 until his death in 1976.

Phillips was the first African American elected to public office in Grand Rapids, winning election to the Grand Rapids Charter Commission in 1951. He was also the first African American elected to the Grand Rapids Board of Education, serving from 1962 to 1970. He achieved several other offices, won various awards and served as a consultant to President Gerald R. Ford on minority citizen concerns.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession Number: 1979.001; Donor: Ethel Phillips

Related Materials

Coll. 125, Robinson Studio Collection, for images of Phillips and other Borough or League members.

Coll. 129, Grand Rapids Rotary Club Records, 129-15-15 Image of Phillips.

Coll. 252, Grand Rapids Neighborhoods Collection, RE the development of the Madison Area Neighborhood Association

See also the Grand Rapids Urban League Records, 1941-1986, at the Michigan Historical Collections, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.

Finding aid for the Paul Phillips papers
Lisa Lowther
March 1990
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Grand Rapids History Center Repository

Grand Rapids Public Library
111 Library Street NE
Grand Rapids Michigan 49503 USA