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Gizzi: Remembering Conservative Publisher Tom Phillips

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Thomas L. Phillips (Newsmax)

John Gizzi By Tuesday, 23 April 2024 11:57 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Last week Thomas L. Phillips, an influential conservative publisher, died at age 82.

An entrepreneur, he was the publisher of a score of newsletters and magazines, including the weekly Human Events, the powerhouse conservative publisher Regnery and the Conservative Book Club.

Tom Phillips, as his friends called him, was a proverbial force of nature.

Whatever endeavor he pursued or supported as a donor, it seemed, turned to gold.

Moreover, even as the "woke culture" set in at the twilight of his life and he faced increasing challenges to his health, Phillips steadfastly kept putting his name and wealth behind conservative causes.

"Tonette and I spent time with Tom in 2019, as I prepared for my role as president of the [conservative] Young America's Foundation," recalled former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker referencing his wife. "We were also blessed with his visit to the Reagan Ranch Center last year. While it was difficult for Tom, he wanted to be back one more time."

A graduate of Dartmouth who later earned a masters' degree in journalism from American University in Washington D.C., the young Phillips worked for two major advertising companies in suburban Washington.

In 1972, conservative direct mail mogul Richard Viguerie hired Phillips after he showed up at his office.

He told Newsmax that his new employee "took to direct mail marketing like a duck to water."

Viguerie recalled he and Phillips soon started two newsletters, "The Retirement Letter" and "The Pink Sheet On The Left."

"Tom later came to me and said he wanted to leave and take the newsletters with him," Viguerie said.

James L. Martin, founder of the 60 Plus Association, remembered working with Phillips for Viguerie at his eponymous advertising company.

"My office was next to Tom's, and, while I didn't know him that well, I sensed early on he was going places," Martin told Newsmax.

He did.

Phillips had decided there was little money in conservative fundraising. From his garage, Phillips in 1974 started Phillips Publishing with three employees and $1,000 of his own money.

The proverbial "client who paid the bills" was a newsletter that advised subscribers on their health.

Soon, the fledgling company was putting out a second newsletter dealing with investments and, before long, more than 100 newsletters on disparate topics were flying off its printing presses as part of the Phillips Publishing empire.

"Tom and Phillips Publishing led the pack in what might be regarded as the golden age of newsletters," Llewellyn King, a friendly rival of Phillips in the publishing business, told Newsmax. "He got in early and sold his company at the crest of the newsletter wave."

Always a committed conservative and strongly influenced by columnist William F. Buckley, Jr., and 1964 Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, Phillips in 1993 launched Eagle Publishing to publish journals and public policy outlets decidedly on the right.

One of his first major acquisitions was Regnery Gateway, the durable book publisher whose notable works included "Witness" by Whittaker Chambers.

Eagle also bought Human Events, the nation's oldest conservative newsweekly and one Ronald Reagan read religiously.

Later Eagle would add the Conservative Book Club, which offered classic conservative historical works mainstream book clubs missed or deliberately ignored.

"Tom was an unsung hero of the conservative movement," said Jeff Carneal, who served as CEO of Eagle Publishing since its founding, "He quietly went about building significant and profitable publishing businesses covering several industries, allowing him to later dedicate resources and leadership to the conservative causes he believed in."

Phillips was committed to conservative journalism and founded the Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship Program, named for his close friend, the late syndicated columnist. The fellowship provided $35,000 scholarships to young aspirants in journalism.

He was also a major supporter of The Fund for American Studies and the National Journalism Center.

In a cause-driven and consequential life, Tom Phillips never lost his signature sense of humor.

On June 28, 2012, when I was reporting for Human Events, I got a call from him at 10:30 a.m. (7:30 a.m. on the West Coast, where he was living at the time).

He asked what the Supreme Court was going to announce that day in making its anticipated ruling on the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

When told I had no idea, Phillips replied without missing a beat: "What? You're supposed to know everything! What are they going to rule?"

An hour later, we both knew as the court upheld the controversial health are mandate on the grounds that it was a tax.

He liked to tell his employees, "I'm grateful to you, and you all get my birthday off."

His birthday was Christmas Day, of course!

So next Christmas remember Santa and Tom Phillips as well, especially for his contribution to the cause of freedom.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.


John-Gizzi
Last week, Thomas L. Phillips, an influential conservative publisher, died at age 82. An entrepreneur, he was the publisher of a score of newsletters and magazines, including the weekly Human Events, the powerhouse conservative publisher Regnery and more.
tom phillips, publisher, human events, conservative book club
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2024-57-23
Tuesday, 23 April 2024 11:57 AM
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