BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A former U.S. attorney with strong ties to the coast died Monday after a battle with cancer. George Phillips was 65 years old and had a storied career. Throughout his years practicing law he worked many high profile cases, including the Sherry Murders in Biloxi.
"He changed things. George Phillips changed things," said attorney Peter Barrett.
It was early on in Barrett's career that he credits Phillips for teaching him valuable lessons in law. He saw Phillips do big things throughout his practice as the Southern District's prosecuting attorney and United States Attorney.
Phillips led cases like the Venus Hobbs case that changed the political landscape in Hancock, Harrison and Stone Counties. He also worked on Operation Pretense that saw an investigation into 57 supervisors.
"That changed the way that counties did purchasing in the state," said Barrett.
He also remembers the prosecution of the President Pro Temp of the Mississippi Senate, among other cases. But, the one that sticks out the most in his memory is the Sherry Murders of 1987.
"It was the most unusual case I've ever tried. There was a surprise a minute," said Barrett.
The infamous case that lasted longer than a decade dealt with the murders of Vincent and Margaret Sherry. The judge and his wife were gunned down at their home in Biloxi.
Barrett said that Phillips set the table for the trials that eventually put members of the Dixie Mafia behind bars. It was Phillips's determination that Barrett credits for helping the case come to a close.
"He knew that it had to be done, it had to be done and it was done," said Barrett.
Phillips was officially appointed as the U.S. attorney in 1980 and stayed in that position until 1994. Throughout his career, Barrett says that Phillips set himself apart with a simple philosophy.
"Do the big things and do it with integrity. That was George," said Barrett.
Phillips also had a big role in post-Katrina recovery in Mississippi. A memorial service is scheduled for Tuesday, February 3rd at First Baptist Church in Jackson.