Second Commander of the Space and Missile Systems Organization

General Phillips was born in Arizona in 1921 and raised in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, completing two combat tours in England with the 364th Fighter Group. After the war, he had assignments at Frankfurt, Germany, and Langley AFB, Virginia, and then enrolled at the University of Michigan, where he received a master's degree in electrical engineering in 1950. With the degree in hand, he was given assignments in research and development, and in 1956, he became Chief of Logistics for the 7th Air Division of the Strategic Air Command. In that capacity, he helped to write the international agreement that permitted the deployment and use of the Thor IRBM in Great Britain.

In 1959, he was assigned to the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division as Director of the Minuteman Program. Upon assuming that position, he learned that the Minuteman schedule been accelerated by a year. His success in meeting the compressed schedule brought him to the attention of NASA, and in 1964, NASA made him Director of its Apollo Manned Lunar Landing Program. Under his leadership, the Apollo Program succeeded in putting the first men on the moon in July 1969. The Smithsonian Institution later awarded General Phillips the Langley Medal for his contribution to Apollo. In September 1969, General Phillips returned to Air Force duty and assumed command of the Space and Missile Systems Center (SAMSO). During his period at the helm, SAMSO began deployment of Minuteman III missiles and launched the first satellites for the Defense Satellite Communications System, Phase II, and for the NATO and Skynet communications satellite programs. In August 1972, General Phillips left SAMSO to become Director of the National Security Agency, and in August 1973, he was promoted to four star rank and became Commander of Air Force Systems Command. General Phillips and General Schriever are the only former commanders of SMC's predecessor organizations who went on to achieve four-star rank and lead a major command.

After retiring from the Air Force in August 1975, General Phillips went to work for TRW, eventually becoming Vice President of its Defense Systems Group. He retired from TRW in 1986 and then returned to NASA to conduct a management review and make recommendations for changes in the wake of the Challenger disaster. General Phillips died of cancer at his home on the Palos Verdes Peninsula on 31 January 1990. In December 1990, the Air Force honored him by redesignating the Air Force Space Technology Center as the Phillips Laboratory.