In his day, Phil Kent could turn a passing phrase between two local politicians into a newspaper column that galvanized conservatives across Richmond County.
Today, The Augusta Chronicle 's former editorial page editor lives in Atlanta, where he is a self-employed media communications consultant for political advocacy groups and corporations. It's a role that has allowed him to continue his political critique of issues, such as illegal immigration and the recent health care overhaul.
Kent's columns have been published in The Atlanta Journal Constitution and The Washington Times . He also has written two books, The Dark Side of Liberalism and Foundations of Betrayal: How the Liberal Super Rich Undermine America .
Kent began his career at The Chronicle in 1974 at age 23 as an editorial writer and soon became its editorial page editor, a position he held until 1998.
Kent gained notoriety for his right-wing views, which were celebrated by conservatives and dismissed by liberals.
In the black community, Kent's commentary was taken by some as racism.
"I won't go so far as to say his articles were anti-black," said James Kendrick, a local businessman and former chairman of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce. "But they were anti-black leaders and most of the issues that black people are interested in."
Kent said the editorial page was simply conservative, and that many equate conservatism with racism.
"Whenever you're going after black leaders, there are always going to be some folks who play the race card," he said. "We also went after a lot of white leaders."
Kent was someone who could, in his own words, "strip the bark" from a politician whose position he opposed, and power brokers of his time both courted and feared his notice.
"If you were in his favor, you wanted to be on the point of his pen. If you were on the back side of his opinion, you did not want to be on the point of his pen," said former local Republican Party leader David Barbee. "He could build you up with his writing, and he could tear you down just as quick."
Democrats would remember Kent differently.
"Phil Kent was a pleasant man, but he was extremely reactionary," said Lowell Greenbaum, the chairman of the Richmond County Democratic Party. "We felt he didn't lead the community in the right direction ... his commentary crossed the line, and we were pleased when he left the editorial board."
Kent stepped down as The Chronicle 's editorial page editor after admitting to and apologizing for using a quote from conservative political commentator Pat Buchanan in his column without attribution. He continued with the paper as a political columnist until 2001.
KENT LEFT AUGUSTA to become the president of the Southeastern Legal Foundation, an Atlanta-based public-interest law firm that advocates limited government and free enterprise.
Two years later, he started his own firm, Phil Kent Consulting, Inc. The company provides writing services, media strategies and crisis communications for its clients.
"The fact that I wrote thousands of editorials over 26 years (for The Chronicle ) means I can knock stuff out in 11/2 hours and have people pay good money for that," he said.
Kent said he also stays abreast of regional and national politics, taking in five or six newspapers with his morning coffee each day.
He has been a guest on Bill O'Reilly's The O'Reilly Factor , and since 2004 has appeared on The Georgia Gang , an Atlanta TV public affairs program.
Kent has gained, perhaps, the most recognition for his commentary against amnesty for illegal immigrants. It's an issue he has written about since his days at The Chronicle .
"I began writing about it in the late 1970s," Kent said. "We thought it would be a threat to the way our traditional assimilation system works."
Kent fought amnesty in 2007 and in 2010 The Journal-Constitution published his editorial opposing the DREAM Act, which was then before Congress.
Kent is a national spokesman for Americans for Immigration Control and serves on the board of the group, Pro-English, which advocates English as the official language of the United States.
KENT recently became concerned with the Democrats' national health care overhaul, which he opposes. In March, he was named the CEO of the American Seniors Association, a group that describes itself as a conservative alternative to AARP.
Looking back, Kent said, he is proud of some editorials he wrote while at The Chronicle , including one in the late 1970s that supported nuclear energy and an expanded Plant Vogtle. He also was proud of supporting the consolidation of the city of Augusta and Richmond County, a measure he believed would eliminate government duplication and waste. However, compromises were made during the 1995 consolidation debate that ought to be corrected, he said.
"There's too much gridlock on the county commission, and there's still a lot of black-white polarization," he said. "I'd like to think it's gotten better, but ... I think we probably need to give the mayor some more power."
Kent said he could one day venture into politics himself. He already attends political events and has rubbed shoulders with presidential candidates.