Ms. Carolyn Phillips, executive director of the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame, was the guest of honor at the April 7, 2021 meeting of the Rotary Club of Winnfield. Ms. Phillips was lured to the Rotary meeting by Ted Wold, Rotarian of the week, who asked her to speak to the group, when his true intent was to have other persons present to speak to the group ABOUT Ms. Phillips and all she has accomplished for Winnfield and Winn Parish in the many years since she became a part of our community.
The speakers for the event to honor Ms. Phillips included retired Winn Parish Enterprise editor, Bob Holeman, and former mayors of Winnfield, Deano Thornton, B. R. Audirsch, and Kiah Beville, and current mayor George Moss.
Journalist Bob Holeman spoke of his first contact with Ms. Phillips in connection with the annual Louisiana Forest Festival held in Winnfield, which she helped organize for many years. Ms. Phillips was instrumental in bringing skilled woodsmen from all over the United States to compete in the lumberjack and chainsaw events during the festival. Mr. Holeman relied on Ms. Phillips when he needed to track down resources. When he began to put together a pictorial history of Winn Parish as part of the Images of America Series, he interviewed Ms. Phillips, whose knowledge was essential to the book, about the people in the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame to write the cut lines.
Former mayor Deano Thornton, who served the City from 1994-2009, spoke fondly of Ms. Phillips, whom he first met when she was the home economist with the LSU Agricultural Center extension office in Winn Parish and persuaded him to join the 4H club when he was in the seventh grade. He noted that Ms. Phillips was instrumental in the organization of the Winn Parish Fair and the Forest Festival for many years. In 1994, both he and Ms. Phillips ran for mayor and ultimately became fast friends as a result of the campaign. The following year, Mr. Thornton was able to obtain funding for staff with the Political Museum and he hired Ms. Phillips as its executive director. Ms. Phillips later worked with him to obtain funding from the Main Street Program, and she worked on many other projects which have benefited the City and Parish.
B. R. Audirsch, whose mayoral term was 2010- 2014, noted that Ms. Phillips was inducted into the 4H Hall of Fame in 1998. During his term, she helped organize Uncle Earl’s Hog Dog Trials and the Winn Parish Fair, lobbied to keep the Political Museum here in Winnfield, and was instrumental in convincing Jeld Wen to build a plant in the parish. She also lobbied to have Highway 84 in Winn Parish four-laned and is still working on this today. Mr. Audirsch also mentioned Ms. Phillips’s work with the First Presbyterian Church, and especially its community food pantry ministry. He concluded his tribute to Ms. Phillips with the poem “Life Is Short,” and characterized the work and devotion she has contributed to our local community as priceless.
Kiah Beville, whose tenure as mayor covered 2014 to 2018, was a young child when he first became acquainted with Carolyn Phillips, as they both attended the First Presbyterian Church in Winnfield. He also has fond memories of his years in 4H, with Ms. Phillips as the director. He was in the forest products business locally in 1984 when the Louisiana Forest Festival was revived, and Ms. Phillips called on him to get involved in it. He noted that it is impossible to tell her no when she asks you to do something for the community. Mr. Beville also told of the grand opening ceremony for the Louisiana Political Museum, when he agreed to fire the civil war cannon his great grandfather had brought to Winnfield. The cannon had not been fired since the day Huey P. Long was acquitted in his impeachment trial. The firing of the cannon did not go quite as planned, the paper intended to light the fuse having been lit too early and burned out before the signal came to fire the cannon. He had to light the fuse directly and was so close to the cannon when it fired off the shot that he temporarily lost his hearing. Mr. Beville concluded his remarks by noting what an invaluable asset Ms. Phillips is to our community. Although she was a young adult when she came here in 1962, due to her many diverse contributions and service to the community, she cannot be considered an “interloper,” but is rather a full citizen of our community.
Current Mayor George Moss presented Ms. Phillips with a Proclamation from the City recognizing her spirit of volunteerism, the broad sweep of her work for the citizens of Winnfield, Winn Parish and Louisiana, and her lifetime of outstanding community service.
At the conclusion of the program, in addition to expressing thanks for the tributes, Ms. Phillips spoke of her fond memories of the successful people in the community whom she mentored as members of 4H, and of the pictorial history of Winn Parish by Mr. Holeman, which is available for purchase in the museum.