By Dee Longfellow
There is no doubt that James “Pate” Philip, Jr. was a powerful man who everyone knew – or wanted to know.
At political and social events alike – here at home and in Springfield – there was virtually always a group of people lined up with business cards in hand to talk to the influential official as he rode the “red wave” of Republican politics that covered much of the state (except Chicago!) and remained for several decades.
Former state Senate President James Peyton “Pate” Philip Jr. passed away on Tuesday, Nov. 21, with his wife Nancy by his side.
He was the longest-serving Republican as Senate President, holding the post from 1993 to 2003. He was the last Republican to hold the job, as he retired from public service just before what some call the “blue wave,” as Democrats have dominated state races, a trend that appears to be continuing.
A lifelong Republican, Philip who began his political career in 1965 as York Township auditor, then was elected to the state House the following year, and to the state Senate in 1975.
Throughout his political career, Philip was often criticized for his remarks about Chicago and minority communities. In one well-publicized incident, when asked his thoughts on bilingual education, Philip replied, “Let ‘em learn English.”
“It’s a sad day,” said DuPage County Republican Party Chair and county board member Jim Zay. “You won’t see a leader like Pate anymore.”
Former state representative and current DuPage County Board Chair Deborah Conroy, an Elmhurst Democrat, recalled thinking Philip was “the greatest Republican political mind in DuPage County” when she was coming up in politics.
Born and raised in Elmhurst, Philip served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the early 1950s, after which he attended Kansas State University and held a career as a district sales manager for Pepperidge Farm Bakeries.
Former state representative and current DuPage County Board Chair Deborah Conroy, an Elmhurst Democrat, told the Daily Herald Philip was “the greatest Republican political mind in DuPage County” when she was coming up in politics.
Fellow Republican Jim Durkin, who was a legislative leader along with Philip, was interviewed by WBBM Newsradio on Tuesday, Nov. 21.
“I think that that world is over,” Durkin said. “We should be in a place where we have leaders who are going to say, ‘We are going to cut the you-know-what out. Let’s just get some things done.’”
Durkin also praised Philips’ Democratic counterpart in the Senate, Phil Rock of Oak Park, for working with the other side of the aisle.
“They were adversaries, but they also knew that they had to sit down and find compromise. And they did, on a lot of things.”
“It’s a sad day,” said DuPage County Republican Party Chair and county board member Jim Zay told the Daily Herald. “You won’t see a leader like Pate anymore.”
There will be no wake and burial is private.