Bum Phillips

A Personal Reflection by James Shannon

The accolades rolled in last week when Houston Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips tweeted the news that his dad, legendary football coach Bum Phillips had died at the age of 90.

David Barron wrote in the Houston Chronicle that he "spent half his adult life as a football coach and every waking moment as the personification of all things Texan." Younger readers who missed the prime of his coaching career – he retired nearly 30 years ago – might not understand why Phillips was voted one of the "all-time top ten Texans" in a Houston Post poll in 1991 - behind Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, George Bush, Nolan Ryan, and Red Adair, but ahead of Lyndon Johnson, Barbara Jordan, Willie Nelson, and Earl Campbell.

Even in a state where great football coaches are revered, he was something special - rivaled only by University of Texas legend Darrell K. Royal for the public’s loyalty and affection. I suppose you could make a case for another man in a hat, but Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys was more admired than beloved, a remote figure compared to the folksier DKR or Bum.

I was raised in Houston and Bum Phillips was part of my life for nearly 40 years. My father was a season ticket holder for the Houston Oilers for a long decade of suffering before Phillips arrived in Houston as defensive coordinator for new Oilers head coach Sid Gillman. That was in 1973 and we couldn’t have known it at the time but our team – and our lives – would be slowly transformed by these events. We lost my dad six months before Bum passed, but this confluence of football, my father and Bum Phillips has been one of the great joys of my life.

*            *            *

His Southeast Texas pedigree was second to none. Oail Andrew Phillips, Jr. was born on Sept. 29, 1923, in Orange, the son of a truck driver.

“My name’s pronounced ‘Awl,’ but no one could pronounce it right,” he once told an interviewer. “Even in school, I answered to the name Bum. Oail was my daddy’s first name, too. But he went by the nickname Flip.” He got his nickname when a younger sister, Edrina, tried to say “brother,” only to have it come out as “bumble” and later “bum.”

He graduated from French High School in Beaumont and went to work at the Magnolia Refinery (now ExxonMobil). When a supervisor tried to extract a contribution to a charity not to the 21-year-old Bum’s liking, he quit. He enrolled at Lamar Junior College after being offered a scholarship and studied and played football. He enlisted in the Marine Corps when World War II broke out. After he returned from the war, he enrolled at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, lettering in football in 1948 and 1949 and graduating with a degree in education in 1949.

In 1950, he was hired as a teacher and assistant coach at Nederland High School, becoming head coach the following year. His coaching career took him to high schools in Jacksonville and Amarillo before being named head coach at Port Neches–Groves in 1963-1964. His son Wade was quarterback of those teams but was converted into a linebacker by Bill Yeoman when he got a scholarship to University of Houston. Bum followed his boy to UH and became a coach there.

Bum’s coaching career bounced back and forth between college and football for nearly two decades. He was an assistant to Bear Bryant at Texas A&M in 1958. He also coached at Southern Methodist University for Hayden Fry, and Oklahoma State University for Jim Stanley. He was the head coach at the University of Texas at El Paso (then known as Texas Western) for one season in 1962. Phillips did not stumble into these positions like some sort of collegiate football Forrest Gump. Despite his laconic speech and deep Texas accent, these coaches recognized his sharp mind. Bryant adopted the defensive line numbering system Phillips devised while coaching high school and it remains in use today.

He moved to the NFL in 1967 when San Diego Chargers head coach Sid Gillman hired him as a defensive assistant. When Gillman became head coach of the Houston Oilers in 1973, he brought Phillips with him as his defensive coordinator. Gillman was known as an  offensive innovator - much of the current NFL dominance of the passing game can be traced to his influence.

The Oilers were pitiful on defense, however, and that’s where Phillips came in. The inspiration for his trademark defense can be traced to his time with the Chargers.

“The fourth year I was out there, we did not have enough defensive linemen to play four down people. So, I just went back and started working up a 3-4, which did our personnel good and we started playing it,” Phillips recalled. “And, of course, Sid, he didn’t think we could play it. He thought the people would just run the ball on you. I told him, well, that is the reason why Oklahoma uses it. They can’t run the ball on the 3-4. They might think they can, but they can’t.”

He hit paydirt when he finally got some horsepower up front to implement his 3-4. The Oilers had previously drafted defensive end Elvin Bethea out of North Carolina A&T and traded with the Kansas City Chiefs for nose tackle Curley Culp. The presence of those men on the three-man line freed the linebackers to wreak havoc all over the field – and the efforts of Bethea and Culp did not go unrecognized. Both men were perennial all-pro selections and are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Gillman retired after two years and Phillips succeeded him as head coach of a franchise that had been in woeful disarray when they arrived. Phillips restored the team to respectability and then opportunity came knocking. The Oilers had the first pick in the 1978 NFL draft and selected Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell from the University of Texas – and the rest is history.

With the powerful Campbell running the ball and a swarming defense, the Oilers became one of the best teams in the NFL. Unfortunately, it was the heyday of the Pittsburgh Steelers, arguably the best team that ever took the field. In 1978 and again in 1979, they beat the Oilers in Pittsburgh to advance to the Super Bowl – but they had already cemented their relationship with the fans in Houston. This spawned the “Love ya, Blue” era; fans greeted their warriors returning in defeat with an unprecedented show of affection. Over 50,000 packed into the Astrodome after that first championship game. The next year when the Steelers won a narrow victory decided on a controversial play, they number in attendance topped 70,000 with hundreds of thousands more lining the streets between the airport and the stadium. Just writing these words gives me chills; it was literally like nothing I had seen or felt before or since.

And the man at the center of it all was Bum Phillips. That is why to men and women of a certain age his passing is fraught with so much emotion. It is a vivid memory of a time and place when people of every race, gender and social situation came together and celebrated something bigger than themselves, so real you could touch it.

An emotional Phillips shouted above a deafening roar, “Last year we knocked on the door. This year we beat on it. Next year we’re going to kick the son of a bitch in."  He later apologized to his mother for using harsh language but the adoring masses were ready to kick the door in themselves if asked.

Phillips had built the team around Campbell, one of the best running backs to ever lace up cleats, but the success of those Oilers could also be attributed to men like Carl Mauck, their fiery center. He played college ball at Southern Illinois University then was signed by the Baltimore Colts. He bounced around the league until 1975 when Phillips got him, having met Mauck when both men were with the Chargers. He became the emotional leader of the team and earned his paycheck blocking for Campbell.

He developed a close relationship with starting quarterback Dan Pastorini, who had been horribly battered behind a porous offensive line before Phillips arrived. The two men remained close and he said Pastorini was like a son. Some people were surprised when he traded his oft-injured “son” to the Oakland Raiders for quarterback Ken Stabler after the 1979 season. This provoked much discussion among Oiler fans but my dad said Bum didn’t allow sentiment to win out over pragmatism. Time would prove both men correct.   

*            *            *  

Phillips became a national celebrity, appearing on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” to promote his autobiography “He Ain’t No Bum” in 1981 and was the subject of numerous songs, newspaper stories and magazine articles. Campbell emulated his style of dress, music and living; the two men remained extremely close friends until Phillip’s death.

“Luv ya, Blue” remains the greatest Houston sports story of all time, surpassing even the 1994 and 1995 championship Rockets teams that starred Akeem Olajuwon who had played his college ball at the University of Houston.

Phillips left the Oilers after the 1980 season and became head coach of the New Orleans Saints. He was reunited with Earl Campbell who was traded to the Saints by the Oilers.  He retired in 1985 at the age of 62 and never coached football again, preferring to do charitable work, much of it in Southeast Texas. The Hughen Center’s Bob Hope School in Port Arthur that serves children and adults with disabilities was close to his heart. He and wife Debbie remained in close contact with friends and family in Southeast Texas.

I moved to Groves when I became Mid and South County editor of The Examiner in 2009 and was suddenly immersed in the streets where Bum walked, kind of like Lincoln in Illinois. The men who were his spiritual – and literal – successors were the head coaches at Nederland and Port Neches-Groves.

Larry Neuman, who has had a long, successful run as head coach at Nederland, combines the sharp football instincts and the taciturn folk wisdom of Phillips. A few seasons ago, he saw his top three quarterbacks lost for the season with injury. I called him and asked, “Coach, what are you going to do now?”

Neuman drily responded, “Well, if it’s alright with everybody, we’re going to go ahead and play the rest of the games.” That is what they did, and Nederland went on a winning streak and made the playoffs.

Matt Burnett played football at PN-G and went to Lamar University before returning as head coach of his alma mater for over a decade. Out of college, he signed with the Houston Oilers as a free agent defensive lineman. Burnett is a big man, but the average player at his position is even bigger so he faced an uphill climb.

Burnett described an incident during training camp where he was discouraged at his progress – or the lack of same – and was sitting somewhat dejected on a bench in the locker room wondering if anybody even knew he was on the team. Suddenly he heard somebody behind him singing “The Cherokee”, the unmistakable fight song of PN-G. “Always be faithful to the purple and white…” You know the song if you’ve ever been to a PN-G game because the band, cheerleaders, and Indianettes – along with hundreds of fans sing it dozens of times per game. The singer was Wade, then a defensive assistant.

What does that have to do with Bum Phillips, you ask. A few years after Burnett told me that story I was at a PN-G playoff game the same day Wade Phillips had been unceremoniously fired as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys and heard them playing “The Cherokee” and suddenly thought of Wade, Burnett, the Oilers, PN-G, Bum and the circle of love, good feeling and community that athletics can generate – and I hoped some of those things surrounded him that night.

Wade, who had been the head coach of the Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos before the Cowboys is currently the defensive coordinator of the Houston Texas and is still regarded as one of the best coaches in the NFL despite the recent Texans’ swoon. But I think he took it all with a grain of salt and remembered what his daddy said: “There's two kinds of coaches, them that's fired and them that's gonna be fired." My dad reminded me of that quote when I told him how I felt when Wade got fired.

Gretchen Hargroder is a portfolio manager at UBS who has known Bum all her life; Phillips is her mother’s first cousin. Hargroder said her parents were frequent visitors at the ranch in Goliad where Phillips spent his retirement years.

“Bum had a pair of cowboy boots with Oiler trim that he said my dad could have if they fit him. My dad is not a small man but those boots swallowed his feet. ‘I’d have to hold the tops to walk in them,’ he said. ‘It would take a big man to fill those boots.’” After contemplating the irony of that statement, she said, “I imagine a lot of people are thinking something like  that this week.”

The street connecting Nederland and Port Neches was renamed Bum Phillips Way in his honor, with the great man in attendance shyly cracking a few jokes, visibly moved.

When he died, young people sitting in the living room when their parents and grandparents heard the news might have wondered what the fuss was all about.

“Wasn’t he a football coach?” they may have asked.

 Oh my, yes.

The Stockman Syndrome

The Stockman Syndrome
Orange’s next Congressman is mainstream again

by James Shannon
Business Journal

Absent a cataclysmic event of almost unimaginable proportions, Steve Stockman will be the representative in Congress for the new 36th District, which includes all of Orange County. That means those billboards that say “Re-elect Congressman Stockman” might actually be true again by the time the dust settles in November – a mere 16 years after Stockman was defeated following his single term in Congress.
Stockman, then 39, first made political history in 1994 when he unseated 42-year incumbent Congressman Jack Brooks, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and former LBJ protégé. It’s pretty much been all downhill from there until this recent campaign. Democrats who had been caught flat-footed by Brooks’ defeat in 1994 rebounded two years later as Nick Lampson defeated Stockman, who had wandered in the political desert ever since. He lost Congressional elections in 1996 and 2006; in between, he sandwiched in an unsuccessful bid for a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission.
After first announcing he would run for Ron Paul’s District 14 seat, Stockman changed plans at the last minute and filed for the new District 36. He finished a close second in the GOP primary, then in the runoff handily dispatched political novice Stephen Takach, the first-round leader who had pumped nearly $750,000 of his own money into the campaign.
So what has changed for Stockman this time around?
In his first term in Congress, Stockton was swept in alongside the Contract with America group whose provocative freshman class installed movement leader Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House. Their attempts to change the status quo in Washington met with some initial success, but when they managed to shut down the entire federal government, a majority of citizens believed they went too far. Political observers said the reaction to that overreach propelled a wounded President Bill Clinton to re-election in 1996 and led to the ouster of Gingrich.
Stockman, buoyed by the early euphoria of the Contract movement, soon had to deal with suggestions he too had overreached. In an article that appeared under his byline in Guns & Ammo magazine, Stockman suggested that the burning of the Branch Davidian compound was staged by President Clinton and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to justify the ban on assault weapons. “These men, women and children were burned to death because they owned guns that the government did not wish them to have,” the article read.
In a recent interview with the Business Journal, Stockman ruefully admitted the Guns & Ammo incident had taught him a lesson: “Don’t let a staff member write an article and put my name on it.” But the damage was done.
Flash forward to 2012, and the political landscape has been altered.

Stockman Syndrome

The term “Stockholm Syndrome” – or capture-bonding – refers to a psychological phenomenon in which hostages develop positive feelings toward their captors, as happened during a five-day hostage crisis at Kreditbanken in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1973.
It can be argued that the Stockman Syndrome is actually the reverse of the Stockholm version. A sizeable group of East Texas voters are convinced they are being held hostage by the federal government – specifically the administration of President Barack Obama – in many ways both subtle and profound. This view is constantly reinforced by Fox News, political blogs and even mainstream GOP officials like Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Mitch McConnell.
In that context, the views espoused by Stockman that may have been seen as extreme by many voters in the past seem more plausible today – but not because he has moved toward the political mainstream. Rather, that mainstream has shifted significantly to the right – particularly in Texas and even more so in East Texas.
This suggests Stockman’s brand of conspiracy theory politics might not make him even the most outlandish member of Congress from East Texas.


Despite his erratic history and focus on cultural issues, Stockman is essentially a conservative, pro-business Republican who espouses limited government.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis) is a climate change denier who once blocked the bipartisan Combating Autism Act of 2006, reportedly because he rejected that there could be environmental causes of autism, and he apologized to BP chief executive officer Tony Hayward, accusing the White House of a “$20 billion shakedown” of BP after the company reached an agreement to establish an escrow account to pay the claims of people harmed by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Tyler) recently endorsed Rep. Michelle Bachman’s suggestion that a top aide to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was a sleeper agent of the Muslim Brotherhood. Previously he had warned of pregnant Muslim women coming to the U.S. to give birth to what he termed “terrorist anchor babies” who would grow up and commit acts of terror against Americans.
Stockman grinned at this suggestion and called Gohmert “a friend who has contributed to my campaign.” He has offered his own assessment of the current administration: The Stockman campaign website advertised “Obama Barf Bags” for contributors willing to pay $10 dollars.
To be sure, this 2012 model presents a more reserved candidate. Stockman, now 55, no longer seems like the wild-eyed radical described in print accounts during his previous term in Congress. His smile is ever-present, as seen in our cover illustration taken from a campaign photograph when the candidate visited a Burger King in Jasper, and he is nattily attired in a neat suit and tie. His website lists his support for securing the border and a federal balanced-budget amendment, and opposition to gun control, abortion and gay marriage.
He appears to be sticking to safer issues recently, weighing in on behalf of the Kountze cheerleaders whose school principal banned them from displaying banners with Bible verses at football games.
In a statement, Stockman said, “The Kountze superintendent who is limiting the freedom of expression of these kids should probably start packing his bags. This is not San Francisco or New York. This is East Texas, where people still love Jesus and don’t like liberals who try to take away their Constitutional Rights.”
To his credit, Stockman has not tried to run away from his past. In a biography posted on his campaign Facebook page, he described his life in 1980 as a college dropout who became a homeless drifter eating from garbage cans and sleeping atop a concrete pillar in the Fort Worth Water Gardens. He said he cleaned up his act, earned a degree in accounting, discovered religion, and eventually challenged Brooks.
In a recent interview with KBMT Channel 12, he mentioned he his past homelessness but preferred to talk about his missionary trips to help the less fortunate. At a campaign event at a restaurant in Houston, he was represented by his wife, Patti, who told those in attendance her husband was on a missionary trip to Africa.
Stockman has few obstacles in his current path to the House. His opponent is Democratic nominee Max Owen Martin, a pilot and small business owner from Clear Lake City. His campaign website proclaims Martin “The Sane One in the Race,” but he might question his own sanity on Nov. 6. His views are not ambiguous: “It is encouraging to see the economy improving day by day, due to the policies of the Democratic Party and its president, Barack Obama,” said Martin. He has been endorsed by various AFL-CIO groups in the district, the Houston Association of Real Estate Brokers, Galveston Bay Area Sierra Club and the Orange County Democrats.
Libertarian Michael Cole, an educator at Little Cypress-Mauriceville High School, will also be on the ballot.
In the political calculus of 2012, that makes Stockman the prohibitive favorite. Despite his erratic history and focus on cultural issues, Steve Stockman is essentially a conservative, pro-business Republican who espouses limited government.

This article originally appeared in the October issue of the Greater Orange Business Journal

All Aboard!

Beaumont opens new Amtrak station

The new Amtrak station welcomed its first Sunset Limited bound for New Orleans on Friday, Sept 14. The station features a new platform, a covered waiting area, rest rooms and a police substation.

Amtrak completed the construction of the station at 2555 W. Cedar St. in January of this year. It was built to Amtrak’s standard for low-use stops. The Sunshine Limited passes through Beaumont six days a week. On Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, travellers may board the train at 2:05 p.m. and arrive in New Orleans at 9:40 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, passengers board the westbound train from New Orleans at 3:48 p.m. The westbound Sunset Limited continues, making stops in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, and arrives in Los Angeles almost two days later at 5:35 a.m.

Mayor Becky Ames was on hand for the official grand opening with other civic and business leaders and hailed the new facility for boosting the city’s image with those arriving by train.

The new station is on a four-acre site that was purchased by the city of Beaumont. The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act provided Amtrak with funding for the construction of the station. Beaumont funded the construction of the police substation at a cost of $289,000.

Tickets and reservation for rail travel may be secured through Amtrak’s Web site.

Property Management

Creel Investments and Keller Williams announce partnership

Darren Creel of Creel Investments and his team have joined ranks with Kathy Cleveland at Keller Williams Beaumont to form Keller Williams Rental Services, a residential property management company.

Darren Creel is a former Army military police officer and former Beaumont Police officer who has been investing in real estate since 1993 and formed Creel Investments in 1995.

In October 2009, Kathy Cleveland purchased Keller Williams Realty in Beaumont. Earlier this year, she opened two other offices, one in Port Neches and another in Lumberton. Currently, over 70 agents are licensed and working at any one of the Keller Williams offices. As a company who is constantly expanding, Keller Williams is pleased to now be affiliated with Creel Investments property management.

“In property management, your integrity is all you have going for you at the end of the day. We work hard to ensure that our integrity is as high as possible every single day,” said Creel. Their property management and maintenance team manages more than 800 properties in the Golden Triangle Area.

“When the opportunity came to join a group like Keller Williams with its high standards of customer service and the friendly and capable team that works with Kathy Cleveland, we jumped at the chance,” added Creel.

Creel Investments will continue to work out of its Beaumont office as the main headquarters and also has an office in Port Neches, and has announced the opening of a new office in Lumberton with Keller Williams.

high as possible every single day,” said Creel. Their property management and maintenance team manages more than 800 properties in the Golden Triangle Area.
“When the opportunity came to join a group like Keller Williams with its high standards of customer service and the friendly and capable team that works with Kathy Cleveland, we jumped at the chance,” added Creel.
Creel Investments will continue to work out of its Beaumont office as the main headquarters and also has an office in Port Neches, and has announced the opening of a new office in Lumberton with Keller Williams.

Business Journal editor James Shannon offers a weekly column of business news for readers of The Examiner. For more details, see the editions of the Business journal published monthly in Beaumont, Port Arthur and Greater Orange. Check out the blog at setxbiz.blogspot.com or e-mail james@beaumontbusinessjournal.com.