PHILLIPS, LEE ELDAS (1876-1944)
Phillips Petroleum Company cofounder Lee Eldas "L. E." Phillips was born August 18, 1876, near Conway, Iowa. He was the fourth of ten children, including oilmen Frank and Waite Phillips, born to Lewis Franklin and Lucinda Josephine Faucett Phillips. Educated in rural schools, L. E. attended Western Normal College in Shenandoah, Iowa, and began teaching in 1897.
Phillips joined a Creston, Iowa, insurance firm in 1899 but soon became a sales representative for a lumber and coal company. He helped found a mining business at Knoxville, Iowa, in 1902, and married Lenora Carr in November of that year. Their children were Philip Rex, Lee Eldas, Jr., and Martha Jane Phillips.
With financial assistance L. E. and Frank Phillips organized the Anchor Oil and Gas Company in 1904. They obtained leases near Bartlesville in the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory (present Washington County, Oklahoma), and opened a Bartlesville office in 1905. L. E. moved his family to Bartlesville, where he purchased real estate and became a community leader.
L. E. and Frank Phillips formed the Citizens' Bank and Trust Company of Bartlesville in 1905 and acquired additional Bartlesville banks in 1908 and 1920. L. E. held various positions within those establishments, including cashier, vice president, and director. He also served on the executive committee and as president of the Oklahoma Bankers Association, as a member of the American Bankers Association, and from 1926 as a director of the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, Tenth Federal Reserve District.
In 1915 the Phillips brothers decided to sell their petroleum industry assets and concentrate on banking. Unable to dispose of their leases in Osage County, Oklahoma, they continued drilling. Consequently, the Phillips Petroleum Company was incorporated in June 1917 with L. E. as vice president.
During World War I Gov. Robert L. Williams appointed L. E. Phillips to the Oklahoma State Council of Defense. L. E. also chaired and managed the Red Cross and Liberty Loan campaigns for Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle. Troubled by poor health, he subsequently worked less and traveled with his family. Patrick J. Hurley, secretary of war under Pres. Herbert Hoover, offered Phillips the governor generalship of the Philippines, but he declined. In 1934 he stepped down as Phillips Petroleum Company vice president, general manager, and executive committee chairman. Retiring to his Bartlesville farm, he continued traveling and engaged in public speaking. Lee Eldas "L. E." Phillips died at Bartlesville on April 16, 1944, and was buried in Bartlesville's Memorial Park Cemetery.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: R. H. Hudson, "L. E. Phillips," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 24 (Winter 1946 47). Billy M. Jones, L. E. Phillips: Banker, Oil Man, Civic Leader (Oklahoma City: Heritage Books, 1981). Morning Examiner (Bartlesville, Oklahoma), 18 April 1944.
Jon D. May
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