Longtime IMS Public Address announcer Phillippe dies at 84
INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2003 -- James R. "Jim" Phillippe, a familiar, friendly voice to millions of Indianapolis Motor Speedway spectators as a member of the track's public address team since 1950, died Dec. 15 after a long illness. He was 84.
Phillippe joined the legendary Tom Carnegie, a close friend, on the Speedway's public address starting with the 1950 Indianapolis 500. Phillippe helped deliver information, news and interviews with drivers and celebrities to the fans during every race at the track through the Brickyard 400 in August 2003.
A native of Dugger, Ind., Phillippe was most well known during each month of May for his interviews with drivers immediately after their qualification runs, a program he helped develop. He also narrated pre-race ceremonies for the Indianapolis 500, delivering the stirring, inspirational tribute to all Armed Forces veterans on Race Day before the playing of "Taps."
"Down where I am, it's a heartbreak area," Phillippe said in 1999 about his post-qualifying interviews. "It's highly emotional. You see lots of tears of joy and lots of tears of sadness. A racing career depends on it."
Said Carnegie on Dec. 16: "Throughout the 55-odd years that we worked together at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Jim has been noted for his boundless energy and boundless enthusiasm. And he treated all those race drivers who tried to qualify and who did qualify as champions. Gave them equal time on the public address system after their record runs or near-record runs or just average runs at the track.
"That's where we'll miss him a lot, on qualifying days. We'll miss him on Race Day, too. Jim was always pleasant, always up when it came to anything concerned with the famed '500.'"
Phillippe, a longtime professor at Butler University in Indianapolis, joined the Speedway public address team at the invitation of Carnegie. Phillippe had announced part-time at WIRE radio in Indianapolis, where Carnegie was sports director.
It was a perfect partnership that lasted more than a half-century.
"We seem to blend real well," Phillippe said in 1999 of Carnegie.
Said Carnegie: "We were close friends. We talked together. We ate dinner together. We had families together for some 60 years. It was fun to be with Jim. Not only at the track but in everyday life.
"Oh, yes, I'll miss Jim. He was always there. He was always the first one at the track and the last one to leave. He was always well prepared. You could always rely on him no matter what the weather, what time of day and so forth. So I'll miss him very much."
Phillippe received the Unsung Hero Award in May 2003 for his longtime service to the Speedway. Legendary Indianapolis 500 car owner Andy Granatelli presented the award to Phillippe during the public drivers' meeting for the Indianapolis 500.
"That was a great honor that he truly appreciated," Carnegie said.
It was one of many awards Phillippe received during his distinguished career as a teacher, broadcaster and announcer. Among other notable honors was induction into the Indiana Broadcasters Hall of Fame and receipt of the Butler Medal of Honor, the university's highest honor.
Phillippe graduated from Indiana University in 1941 with a degree in theater and received a master's degree from Cornell University in 1943. He also did doctoral studies in speech and drama at Illinois and Ohio State universities in the early 1950s.
After working in New York as a mail sorter at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel following graduate school, Phillippe started his broadcasting career in radio as an announcer in Evansville, Ind., and after a year moved to Charleston, W. Va., to become assistant director of a civic theater. He then moved to Huntington, W. Va., to become a sports announcer at WSAZ radio. While in Huntington, he was asked to teach classes at Marshall University, which spawned a career in education.
Phillippe then returned to Indiana in 1946 and went to work at Butler, which wanted someone to start a drama department. He also taught in the radio department.
While at Butler, Phillippe served as chairman of the drama department and then moved to become chairman of the Department of Radio and Television. He also served as manager of Butler's student radio station, WAJC, and was public address announcer for home basketball and football games for 35 years.
Phillippe also maintained touch with his broadcasting roots while working as an educator. Besides working part-time at WIRE radio in the late 1940s in Indianapolis, he also served as a producer and director at WFBM-TV in Indianapolis during the early years of television.
While Phillippe's voice was known by millions due to his tireless work at the Speedway, he also announced races at Walt Disney World Speedway, Michigan International Speedway, Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport and Nazareth Speedway.
Phillippe is survived by his wife, Peggy; daughter, Jamie; and son, Jim II.
3-8 p.m. (EST) Thursday, Dec. 18
Flanner and Buchanan Funeral Home
1305 Broad Ripple Ave.
11 a.m. (EST) Friday, Dec. 19
Epworth United Methodist Church
6450 Allisonville Road
followed by burial at Oaklawn Memorial Gardens at 97th Street and Allisonville Road in Indianapolis.
Contributions in Phillippe's memory can be made to:
4600 Sunset Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46208.