Howard Phillips, a longtime political activist who founded the Conservative Caucus and the Constitution Party and made battling the left his life’s work, passed away Saturday at the age of 72, the Washington Times reports.
Phillips, who was born Jewish, converted to evangelical Christianity in adulthood.
His political beliefs changed as well. As a young man, Phillips was a staunch Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for public office.
He later became the head the federal Office of Economic Opportunity, appointed by then-President Nixon.
The OEO was the brainchild of Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 War on Poverty, which relied on the kind of government spending that was anathema to Phillips. When Nixon asked Congress for more OEO money, Phillips felt betrayed and left his position, citing principles over politics.
“The Nixon White House betrayed Howie after it installed him to close down OEO and then under political pressure decided to fold it into the Health and Human Services Administration while also retaining the left-wing Legal Services Corp.,” said former Phillips Chief of Staff Jay Parker.
The gulf between Phillips’ conservative beliefs and the GOP widened to the point of no return in 1974, when he left the party for good.
Phillips was much admired for his steadfast adherence to principles, but it was that very stubbornness that proved to be his undoing as a political player and public figure.
He helped found the U.S. Taxpayers Party, which morphed into the Constitution Party and ran for president on the party’s ticket in 1992, 1996 and 2000, never winning more than half a percent of the vote.
Phillips is remembered by conservatives as a leader whose belief in what was right for America never wavered.
“From his early service in the Nixon administration, where he tried to undo the Great Society almost single-handedly, to his later quixotic runs for the presidency of the United States, Howie always marched tall and straight to his set of principles,” said former Heritage Foundation President Edwin J. Feulner.
“Most of these principles were conservative, some were a bit quirky, but Howie always believed and always led.”
Phillips was battling dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease at the time of his death.
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