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Harry Garrett Phillips Papers

Identifier: MSS-2536

Scope and Contents

The collection has been arranged in the following series: Musical Compositions, Correspondence, Miscellaneous, Photographs, and Recordings.


  • 1941 - 1991


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Due to the nature of certain archival formats, including digital and audio-visual materials, access to certain materials may require additional advance notice.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are responsible for using the materials in conformance with United States copyright law as well as any donor restrictions accompanying the materials. The user assumes all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any copyright claimants in collection materials. Copyright for official University records is held by The University of Alabama. The library claims only physical ownership of many manuscript collections. Anyone wishing to broadcast or publish this material must assume all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants of literary property rights or copyrights. Please contact Special Collections ( with questions regarding specific manuscript collections. For more information about copyright policy, please visit: Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals without the consent of those individuals may have legal implications, for which the University of Alabama assumes no responsibility.

Biographical / Historical

Harry Garrett Philips was born November 4, 1941, in Columbus, Georgia, the third youngest son of Thomas and Adylise Phillips. He attended public schools in Columbus and graduated from Columbus High School in 1959. While in high school he wrote music and learned to play the piano and contrabass, playing the latter in the school orchestra.

Phillips enrolled in the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in 1959 to pursue a degree in musical composition. He later earned a Master of Music degree in 1964. His principal teacher was the composer Scott Huston. Phillips’s compositional output during his conservatory years was extensive, the major work of this period being his opera, Blood Wedding, based on a work by the Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca. Although Phillips completed the short score of the opera and orchestrated all of the second act and some of the first, the score remained incomplete as his death.

Phillips served as the choir director at McAdory High School in McCalla, Alabama, from September 1964 though May 1966. There he distinguished himself not only as a conductor but as an arranger and composer as well. In 1965, he wrote an arrangement of the folk song "What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor" which was received with enthusiasm at the state choir competition that year. That same year he wrote the libretto and score for a one act western-themed musical farce. In the first part of 1966, Phillips finished composing a piece for choir and piano, titled "There Will Come Soft Rains" which was a setting of a poem by American poet Sara Teasdale. Later that spring, he wrote the music for a student's two act musical comedy about the NASA space program and the Cold War titled "Captin Cosmo."

In the fall of 1966, Phillips joined the music faculty at The University of Alabama as an instructor in music theory and composition. He remained on staff at the university until his death, rising to the position of associate professor of music and chairman of the composition and theory department within the School of Music.

Throughout the quarter-century of his association with The University of Alabama and its music school, Phillips proved a tireless and devoted composer and teacher. His musical catalogue is large and various, ranging from small choral pieces to opera and concerto.

At the age of 38, Phillips was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer. With determination and resilient spirit he underwent treatment for a period of 12 years without complaint and only the occasional slackening of energy.

Harry Garrett Phillips died two months shy of his 50th birthday on September 4, 1991, at DCH Medical Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He was buried in Columbus, Georgia. A memorial concert devoted to selected works of Harry Garrett Phillips was presented by the University’s School of Music on April 20, 1992, in the concert hall of the Moody Music building on the University campus.

Taken from a biographical sketch written by Frederic Goosen (with additions from Craig L. Teed in 2016) which may be found in the Miscellaneous Series.


15.09 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Musical compositions, correspondence, photographs, and recordings by Harry Garrett Phillips.


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Guide to Harry Garrett Phillips Papers
November 2016
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Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266