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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

More on Judge John L. Phillips (MORE, CLICK HERE)

John L. Phillips Jr., 83, Civil Court Judge Is Dead
The New York Times By TRYMAINE LEE - February 19, 2008

John L. Phillips Jr., a retired Civil Court judge who owned theaters in Brooklyn that were a prominent platform for black activists in the 1980s, died on Saturday in Brooklyn. He was 83.

Clarence Hardy, a friend, said Mr. Phillips collapsed in an elevator at the Castle Senior Living Facility at Prospect Park in Brooklyn, where Mr. Phillips lived. He was pronounced dead at New York Methodist Hospital. The cause was not immediately known.

On the Civil Court bench in Brooklyn, Judge Phillips became known as the kung fu judge, because he earned the rank of 10th-degree black belt in kung fu.

He amassed a fortune of about $10 million by buying property in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, where he lived most of his adult life. His holdings included several apartment buildings and two movie theaters, both purchased in the early 1980s. He renamed one, the century-old Regent, the Slave Theater, “so that no one would ever forget our struggles,” he said in an interview last year. He called the other the Black Lady Theater.

When racially charged killings in the 1980s frayed race relations in the city, the theaters — primarily the Slave — became stages for rallies and press conferences by a new crop of black activists, including the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Judge Phillips drew the ire of many black politicians in 1989 when he backed Rudolph W. Giuliani in the mayoral race against David N. Dinkins, the Democratic candidate who went on to become the city’s first black mayor. Judge Phillips told The New York Times that black voters should support Mr. Giuliani because of his crime-fighting experience.

“I’m 6 feet 1,” Judge Phillips said then. “I can kill you with my hands faster than you can believe, and I carry a gun. But I’m scared to walk the streets at night. How do you think black women feel?”

In 2001, Mr. Phillips, at 77, announced he would challenge the incumbent, Charles J. Hynes, in the race for district attorney in Brooklyn. But he was declared mentally incompetent after an investigation by Mr. Hynes that some said was politically motivated. Mr. Hynes said the action was undertaken for Mr. Phillips’s own good.

A series of court-appointed guardians took over Mr. Phillips’s affairs, but a court case ensued involving allegations that the guardians had mismanaged his person and finances.

Mr. Phillips never married but for many years had a companion, Elizabeth Pickett, who died earlier. He had no children.

In the early 1980s, Mr. Phillips wrote, produced and directed a film, “Hands Across Two Continents,” a tale of taboo interracial love set in 1970s Brooklyn. After failing to get a major studio to back the project, he made the film himself and showed it in his theaters.

In recent years, much of Mr. Phillips’s property was sold off by guardians. His current guardian has put the Black Lady Theater up for sale.

Mr. Phillips, a World War II veteran, was born on a farm in Kansas and graduated from Wilberforce University, where he obtained a law degree. He was first elected to the bench in 1977 without the support of Brooklyn’s political machine. He retired in 1994.


Anonymous said...

What happened to this nice man, and his death, should be the rallying call to take back our courtsystem from the thugs who now run it.

Anonymous said...

what the system (including Hynes) did to this brother is a crime that we all should not forget

Anonymous said...

people ganged up on Judge Phillips to kill him and take what he had worked hard for...a black man doesn't have a chance.

Anonymous said...

Here's the NYLJ obit:

Obituary: John L. Phillips
February 21, 2008 -John L. Phillips, a former New York City Civil Court judge, died Feb. 16 in Brooklyn. He was 83.

Mr. Phillips graduated from Wilberforce University in Ohio, where he earned his law degree.

In 1977, he was elected to the Civil Court bench in Brooklyn, and retired in 1994.

In the 1980s, Mr. Phillips made his mark in the real estate market by acquiring property in Brooklyn that included The Slave Theatre and The Black Lady Theatre. His assets at one point totaled some $10 million, according to The New York Times.

A 10th-degree black belt in kung fu, Mr. Phillips was dubbed "the kung fu judge."

In 2001, at age 77, he sought to unseat incumbent Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J Hynes, who won re-election that year to a fourth term.

But during the race, the prosecutor's office launched an investigation into Mr. Phillips's mental competence, and he agreed to a court-appointed guardian. A series of guardians took over Mr. Phillips's affairs, which led to litigation involving allegations that the guardians had mismanaged his finances.

Mr. Phillips never married and had no children. Funeral information was not immediately available.

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