Bum Lives in Many Memories
He was proud of being country, respected by common folks and presidents.
O.A. “Bum” Phillips, Orange County’s most famous native born Sept. 29, 1923, at home on John Street. Whenever asked, he said he was from Orange, Texas. As far as I know all of his children, including Houston coach Wade were born in Orange. Bum’s roots ran deep in Orange County. All of his family is buried here and several years ago he told me he would be buried here also. Plans change however, he so loved his ranch in Goliad that he chose to be buried under his favorite Oak tree at the horse ranch.
A million words will be written about his death and his life. Everyone who has ever known him has a story. I have had the good fortune, over several decades, to have known him and in every occasion I was around him was special to me. We never had a personal relationship but he was really kind to me when we communicated in person, by phone or letter. I received a two page letter from him that I cherish.
During Hurricane Ike, he had agreed that if we built a sports museum he would donate some of his items to it Years went by and the museum never got off the ground. He donated much of his stuff to other places. Over the years I tried to convince community leaders to honor those natives that shine a bright star on Orange County. “Bum” was known and loved around the country. The only item I know of that was donated was Bum’s Stetson hat, his favorite western hat he said. While doing a fund raiser for his friend the late W.T. Oliver the Stetson was auctioned off and Danny Brack ended up with it. Bum did a lot to help W.T. with his Hughen School endeavors. The Bum Phillips Celebrity Golf Tournament and the Bob Hope events were promoted by Oliver. I was lucky to be one of W.T.’s friends and got in on many of the private moments with a lot of celebrities. Once when I owned the Crawfish Bucket restaurant in Nederland Bum and some of the New Orleans Saints players and coaches loaded the place down. It was a fun evening. The reason I mention this particular occasion is because it’s the only picture ever taken, that I’m aware of, in which Bum is wearing a hat indoors. Even in the Dome he went bareheaded. His mom had told him to not wear a hat indoors. He took one of my Crawfish Bucket hats. Wade commented, “I know who he will give that hat to.”
I was with Bum when Earl Campbell came into the room. Bum asked, “EC, what happened, you told me you were coming to New Orleans?” Bum said, “That’s OK E.C., but you should have let me know, I had made the arrangements.” Earl, who Bum called E.C. had resigned with Houston after telling Bum he would follow him to the Saints. They remained lifelong friends, very close. I was once in the presence of Bum and Terry Bradshaw, who had beaten Bum’s Oilers in two big games. Bum made remarks about the two most important games in his coaching career. He was fond of Terry and admired his toughness. Bum remained close to many of his former players who visited him regularly.
Of all the many stars I got to be around Bum always stood out. I’m talking about big stars. Bum would say, “I’ve been in the presence of presidents and other notables but none impressed me more than Coach Bear Bryant.” That’s the way I feel about our Orange native. Many will remember how Bum hung out in Bridge City while his old teammate at SFA and friend Chief Wilson, who recently died, marched towards a state football championship. Bum was an assistant at the University of Houston at the time. He said Steve Worster was the best recruit in the country, yet he didn’t use his friendship to persuade Steve to attend Houston. I’m sure Worster has some Bum Phillips stories. Everyone does. I could tell dozens more but I’m just thankful for the memories.
When Bum was with the Saints, a large group of us from the Golden Triangle chartered cars on the Sunset Limited and called it “Bum’s Luv Train.” Bum, the Saints coach, had purchased tickets for all of us. I still have that Luv Train cap.
Private services will be held at his ranch and a memorial will be held next Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. at Lakewood Church in Houston. Coach Phillips still has many relatives in Orange, the place he never forgot. I’ll always be grateful our path down life’s highway crossed.
A rare picture of Bum wearing a hat indoors. Roy Dunn presented the crawfish bucket cap at his restaurant in Nederland.