John McCandlish Phillips' eyes rolled open as I stood silently by his bedside with my wife Darilyn Saturday night. He raised his brow upward in greeting. His eyes cleared and his left hand moved up in a weak wave.
The legendary reporter for the New York Times was laid low by failing lungs, but he ministered to the very end. He encouraged, mentored, and prayed. John was a genius in giving deft encouragement to everyone who visited him with those wrinkles on his forehead rising and eyes growing large with warmth and encouragement.
A few days earlier he was still able write, though unable to speak through the breathing apparatus (he laughed with pleasure when I called it his astronaut mask). In wobbly block letters he would write bedside orders for the visitor to continue their calling in the Lord. His friends collected a whole book of these "marching orders of the Lord via John." You always felt that it was such a privilege, such a joy, and such an encouragement.
Weaving his writing up and down the page, he wrote a large bedside order to me. "Your Story, the photographer Jacob Riis, must be fully told." Riis was the outstanding Christian reporter in his day 100 years ago, just as Phillips was in his. In 2007, Phillips won the Jacob Riis award for lifetime achievement in journalism from the Christian journalist group Gegrapha. The group thanked Phillips for "exemplifying the values, integrity and journalistic excellence practiced by New York reporter and photojournalist Jacob Riis."
Phillips was born in Glen Cove, New York, on Long Island on December 4, 1927. He was known as Johnny, though later he warned people that he didn't like to be called that. Directly from high school, ...1