Thank you to Dr. Phillips Charities for the important work that do in and for the Central Florida community and for this wonderful history of the man behind what is known today as the "Dr. Phillips" area of Orlando - and home to world-famous restaurant row.
Dr. Philip Phillips and the charities that carry his name have a rich history in Central Florida and continue to have a great impact on the lives of the area's residents. Philip Phillips was born on January 27, 1874, in Memphis, Tennessee. Little is known about his early years other than he attended Columbia University where he was awarded a medical degree.
The young Dr. Phillips came to Florida in 1894, where he purchased his first orange grove in Satsuma. One of the most devastating freezes in Florida's history occurred in the following year. Two days of below-freezing temperatures destroyed his citrus trees forcing the young doctor back home to Tennessee. He returned to Florida in 1902, this time moving further south to Central Florida. He purchased land in Osceola County. This was the beginning of a citrus empire spanning several counties, with more than 5,000 acres of citrus groves and two packing houses. In 1905, Dr. P. Phillips purchased a grove on the south side of Sand Lake in Orange County. Decades later, this land would become the site of the Orlando Regional Sand Lake Hospital, which was renamed The Dr. P. Phillips Hospital in 2007 in his honor.
Dr. Philip Phillips and his wife, Della, settled in Orlando where they raised their family and established their reputation for philanthropy. The couple had two sons. The eldest, Howard, was born in Lebanon, Tennessee on March 27, 1902, and Walter was born in Kissimmee, Florida, on November 27, 1904.
Dr. P. Phillips was known for the many innovations that his company incorporated in the packaging and processing of orange juice. Creating a patented innovation called "flash" pasteurization, he was the first to successfully can juice without the metallic taste that was the hallmark of earlier canning processes. As the family citrus business grew, he Phillips brought in temporary help from the Bahamas. Housing was established for workers in the Dr. Phillips community and a post office was built to provide much needed services. In the 1950s, recognizing that proper health care for black citizens of Central Florida was almost non-existent, Dr. P. Phillips was instrumental in establishing the Dr. Phillips Memorial Hospital. Howard Phillips, having graduated from Harvard, was also dedicated to this project and encouraged two black doctors to relocate to Orlando to establish their practice.
The Phillips family's generosity and keen passion for helping people in the community led to the establishment of The Dr. P. Phillips Foundation in 1953 to support charitable needs in the Central Florida area. The family felt that it was important to support programs that would correct the origins or causes of a problem, thus leading to the Foundation's motto "helping others help themselves." In 1954, the citrus business was sold to Granada Groves, a partnership between Investors Diversified Services and Minute Maid.
Dr. Philip Phillips passed away on April 18, 1959; engraved on his marble tombstone are the words: "Under His Hand the Wilderness Bore Fruit." His wife, Della, passed away in 1968, and Howard Phillips, the remaining sole stockholder of the Phillips' companies, continued the family legacy of philanthropy through The Dr. P. Phillips Foundation and Dr. Phillips, Inc. Upon his death in 1979, Howard Phillips, the sole heir of Dr. Philip Phillips, left all of the Phillips family holdings to be used in charitable ways.
Like The Dr. P. Phillips Foundation, Dr. Phillips Inc. is a not-for-profit corporation. These sister organizations comprising Dr. Phillips Charities have made over $180 million in grants, pledges and program related investments to Central Florida charities responding to the needs of the community and directly touching the lives of thousands of children and families each year.