David Phillips (1944-2020)

photo of David F. Phillips (1944-2020)

We of the Flag Heritage Foundation mourn the passing of David F. Phillips, our Series Editor, fellow Trustee, and friend.  David Frank Phillips II (his full name, which he rarely used) was born September 15, 1944.  He passed away on March 26, 2020 from a confluence of health issues.

David, for us, had two impressive personas.  The first was David as a longtime member of the Board of Trustees.  In this role he was a constant initiator.  He was always full of proposals to pursue book projects, to make the most of our collections, to find the best professionals to support our work, and in general to lead us forward.  He was equally adept as an editor, as a researcher, and as a writer.  His sense of organization was consonant with his background in law and librarianship.  He worked very smoothly with the others of us on the Board of Trustees, bringing to us project proposals that were so fully developed that our unanimous endorsement was always a formality.  Although his first love was heraldry, he drew respect as a scholar in vexillology as well.  All his work was to a very high standard.  One could see David as a formidable combination of scholar, editor, and administrator.

Those coming to know David only through the Foundation, however, would begin to realize that David’s true scope was much broader, amounting to quite a different persona.  “David wins, hands down, the Reader’s Digest prize for ’The World’s Most Unforgettable Person,’” one of his friends remarked on learning of David’s death.  His legal career ranged from defender of Timothy Leary to law librarian.  His writing led beyond scholarship to poetry, children’s stories, travelogues, essays, biography, and autobiography.  Earlier he had been a draft counselor at the time of the Vietnam War, a taxi driver, a typist, a radio and television broadcaster, and an English teacher in Taiwan.  He was one of America’s foremost collectors of heraldic books, atlases, first-day covers, and works in sundry other categories.  His spiritual explorations were informed by early psychedelic experiences, which led him eventually to Buddhism and veneration of the Hindu god Ganesha.  And even this list is merely suggestive of the twists and turns of his personal journey, as recounted in his autobiography.

David will be sorely missed by his family, colleagues, friends, and acquaintances, and in particular by the remaining Trustees of the Flag Heritage Foundation.  He leaves siblings Christopher, Adam, and Victoria, as well as a niece and a nephew.

Some life details:   David grew up in Manhattan.  He graduated from Columbia University in 1968 and the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1971.  In 1974 he added an M.S. from the Columbia School of Library Service, leading later in his career to his contributions as a legal librarian.  For many decades he made his home in San Francisco, where he resided at the time of his death.

Publications:  David’s own publications include, as author, “Emblems of the Indian States” (2011) and “The Double Eagle” (2014), and as editor and lead contributor, “Japanese Heraldry and Heraldic Flags” (2018).  All three appear in the publication series of the Flag Heritage Foundation and are available on Amazon.  David was a frequent contributor to the British journal The Heraldic Craftsman and was one of only two writers granted craft membership in the Society of Heraldic Arts, in England.  At the time of his death he had completed the manuscript and design for a book about the heraldic work of the Polish-born artist Arthur Szyk.  Most recently, he was the editor and compiler of “Psychedelic Refugee,” the memoirs of Rosemary Woodruff Leary (Timothy’s wife), to be published next winter by Inner Traditions.

Web site:  David’s website Radbash.com contains his extensive autobiography, a full list of his heraldic and other publications, and his essays on many other topics ranging from Buddhism to how he became entranced by heraldry as a young child.  In a way, David considered this website to be a summation of his life and of his incredibly wide-ranging and original thought.

Our heartfelt thanks to David’s brother Christopher Phillips for essential contributions to this narrative of David’s life and work.

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