SIMPSONVILLE, S.C. - Although the service was somber, the church parking lot looked like a Clemson tailgating scene as family and friends came to remember "The Voice of the Tigers" during Jim Phillips' funeral Friday.
Phillips, who was the radio play-by-play announcer for Clemson University athletics for 36 years, died Tuesday from an aneurysm. About 200 people, many wearing bright-orange ties or blouses dotted with orange and white ribbons, remembered the 69-year-old Phillips as a jokester, a friend and a devoted father.
Standing graveside in front of his father's casket, Jeff Phillips said when he saw his father's face for the last time, he had a sly smile on it, like someone had just told him the unthinkable - that Clemson's basketball team had defeated North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
"There is no way he would have expected this kind of reaction," said Jeff Phillips, his eyes watering.
He said it was fitting his father's last call was Clemson's 28-17 win over Furman last weekend because the Upstate community had heard Phillips' voice for so long. It was his 401st football game.
Phillips did play-by-play for football, baseball and men's and women's basketball. He was the only broadcaster in the Atlantic Coast Conference to cover so many sports - truly earning the nickname "The Voice of the Tigers."
"This is not a big thing nationally, but in South Carolina this was a pretty big deal," Jeff Phillips said after toasting his father with a shot of scotch.
Earlier family and colleagues gathered in a small Lutheran church in Simpsonville to remember a "frustrated golfer, an impatient fisherman and a beloved father," the Rev. Kent Holz said.
Jeff Phillips' tears flowed as he followed his father's American flag-draped casket out of the church.
"He may make a mistake, but he was always a big enough man to admit he made one," Phillips' son said later.
Colleagues don't remember him making many mistakes during the game.
"I think anybody who does what we do for a living owes Jim Phillips a debt of gratitude," said Wake Forest announcer Stan Coffen. "It will probably hit when Wake plays Clemson and he's not there."
Duke announcer Bob Harris said he knew Phillips for 35 years and Phillips was always there to offer a pep talk or some guidance.
Harris said everyone knew Phillips was pulling for the Tigers, but "he didn't beat you over the head with it."
Chris Carlson, 23, drove up to the church with Clemson flags fluttering atop his car so that anyone following the procession wouldn't get lost, he said.
"He means a lot to a lot of people and I don't even think he realized that," Carlson said.
Phillips, a native of Youngstown, Ohio, was named South Carolina Broadcaster of the Year five times and won the master broadcaster award in 1992. He attended Ashland College in Ohio, starting his broadcasting career in 1953 on Ashland's WATG Radio. He also called games at Kent State for two years.
Phillips' family asked Tim Bourret, Clemson's sports information director, to call the game against Middle Tennessee State on Saturday. Bourret said it wasn't a daunting task, partly because he called football games with Phillips for seven years.
Bourret said he'll say something personal during the pre-game show and "then we'll do the game the way he would've wanted it done."
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