Welcome back. Once again I’m taking you back in time this week to January 27, 1964 when Lyndon B. Johnson was President; the Beatles had a hit song in the U.S. with I Want To Hold Your Hand, Ian Fleming’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was a bestselling book and it was also the last day in the life of a great philanthropist. You might say it all started a few days earlier when Waite Phillips sent his son Chope to check out the Philmont Scout Ranch for him. By then Waite had already given the Boy Scout organization well over one hundred thousand acres of land. He had also established an endowment to support the upkeep of the ranch and any needed building projects.
Waite’s birthday was coming up on January 19th and at 81 he wanted to be assured that the Boy Scout Ranch would be secure in the future. During the preceding few months his health had been deteriorating and after suffering a couple of heart attacks he had a nurse on call twenty-four hours a day. In his book Beyond the Hills: The Journey of Waite Phillips author Michael Wallis describes Waite’s last four months on earth. According to Wallace, Waite enjoyed remembering his youth and the days of making millions with his brothers Frank and L.E.. As most people around here know, the Phillips brothers came from Iowa and went on to establish one of the biggest independent oil companies in the world. Waite eventually split off from his brothers and formed his own successful company. When he eventually sold that company he became one of the richest men in the country.
In 1964 all that was years in the past for Waite but his love for the scout ranch that was now named Philmont was on his mind. He had already laid out his will giving thousands of dollars to his grandchildren and other relatives. He’d also left money to his staff and several friends. The University of Southern California would receive a three million dollar gift and another seven million would go to other colleges and charities. Among several hospitals Bartlesville’s Jane Phillips Hospital received $200,000. Waite’s wife would be left millions in property, along with personal possessions and cash. He also provided additional salary for his long term employees.
As January 27th approached Waite knew everything was in order and after receiving a good report from his son Chope who had just returned from a four day stay at Philmont, he felt happy and rejuvenated enough to take a walk. At 1:30 AM on January 27th, the farm boy from Iowa who had built an empire in both oil and real estate and then given most of his wealth away, died.
I’ve written about this great man in the past and honoring the anniversary of his death only seems right. If you get a chance to read it, the local library has Wallis’ book Beyond the Hills or even better take a trip like me to Waite’s favorite place in the world, Philmont. It is open all year round for tours but I warn you that at sixty-five hundred feet it can be quite cold in the winter.
Till next time, from sixty-five hundred feet I’ll see ya down the road……………