Biographies index

Dr. Thomas H. Phillips

Dr. Thomas H. Phi0llips came to thee United States from Masteg, South Wales with his mother and father in 1882 when he was only three months old.

It was in Rockwood that he grew to manhood and was graduated from the Vanderbuilt School of Medicine, He began his practice In Briceville, Tennessee, but later moved to Rockwood to make his home.

Few people know that in his younger days he dabbled in oil painting and played the piano. He was so skillful with his hands that it is no wonder he became an excellent surgeon.

Dr. Phillips married the former Elizabeth Regester and they had three sons, Thomas Tyler of Knoxville, Morris Florin (M.F.) of Oak Ridge, and Rev. Morgan Kemmer Phillips, a Methodist minister now serving in Madisonville.

Dr. May C. Wharton, a pioneer doctor in Pleasant Hill, has this to say about Dr. Phillips in her autobiography, "Doctor Woman of the Cumberlands," "Almost as soon as the highway unlocked the way to the outside world, I drove to Rockwood to see Dr. Thomas H. Phillips who, we hoped, would act as our staff surgeon. It was arranged, much to our satis- faction."

"Dr. Phillips was one of the old-fashioned general practitioners born with the urge for doctoring in his blood. Educated at Vanderbilt Medical School under several outstanding professors, he made of himself a peerless diagnostician by combining education, a vast and varied experience, and a sympathetic imagination. He carried his patients' medical histories In his head, and often those of their whole families, too.

"We once bad a patient of his who had lived near Rockwood and had doctored with him for many years. "Law me," she said to me one day. "You can't tell me nothing about Dr. Phillps, ma'am. If Dr. Phillips said to me, 1 got to cut off your head and turn It round the other way, I Just say to him, 'O.K., Doc, if that's what you go to do, go ahead and do hit'."

"He came with us regularly on Thursday, his day off', but be would come up at any call In those strenuous days, through snow or storms, over 35 miles of wind and often dangerous mountain road bringing with him a breeziness and unfailing good humor that often lighted many heartbreaking tasks. Full of teasing as a school boy, he would be sought when the instruments were boiled and ready, and he found in argument with 'Preacher* White, who likely had come over to act as orderly for the operation.

"Sometimes we bad to operate in some rooms of the Academy where everything was makeshift. Why not? he would have said. He had begun his own practice as a country doctor in a mining community. Many an appendectomy had he been obliged to perform on a kitchen table by the light of one or two oil lamps."

"He was a deft and skillful band at a tonsillectomy and many a tonsil clinic of fifteen to twenty patients have we held on a Thursday morning.

"Dr. Wharton goes on to say that the surgical clinics had a way of "thickening up" and one case brought on another. She tells of emergency operations for ruptured appendix, gall bladder, etc., which were done in low-ceiling rooms, unhandy places which were cramped and hard to clean.

Dr. Phillips was a great humanitarian, When he was called there was never a question of money. Many times he was paid with eggs and farm produce and often not at all. In the middle of the night, be has been known to slip big suit on over his pajamas and hasten to the bedside of a sick person. Often he sat the whole night through with a sick patient.

He was a Bible student and quoted from the Bible freely. He was a Sunday School teacher at the Kingston Avenue Methodist Church for many years and usually had over a hundred or more in his class.

A friend of his said Just the other day, "Just talking to him made you feel better and he would take time to draw pictures to illustrate where the trouble was".

With all his many duties he found time to serve his community. For many years be served as school commisioner and later as Mayor of Rockwood.

He was so small In statue that he bad to stand on a box in the hospital to perform his operations, but there was nothing short about his heart and his ability.

From the Rockwood Centennial Book 1968