Local leader Phillips dies at 80

Nov. 23—HIGH POINT — Dave Phillips, a High Point business and civic leader who served as a U.S. ambassador and North Carolina secretary of commerce, died Sunday at age 80 after a short battle with cancer, according to his wife of 51 years, Kay Phillips.

He built successful businesses in textiles and finance, and helped redevelop a furniture factory into what is now the Market Square showroom complex and Textile Tower.

"I think Dave was an understatement in High Point," Kay Phillips said. "He was basically a lone worker and made things happen. He always had the energy, got the money raised and had great humility. He made so many things happen in so many people's lives. He loved people and was so creative."

Phillips' longtime friend Aaron Clinard, who will deliver his eulogy at his funeral on Monday, said he was a person of many talents.

"I don't know many people from our hometown who could claim significant service to their local government, their state government and their international government," Clinard said.

He credited Phillips' leadership on the N.C. Board of Transportation in the 1980s with helping to secure the funding for major projects such as the renovations to the High Point Depot and the construction of what is now Interstate 74.

"He was responsible for the bypass. He got it on the docket and he got that built," said Mary Bogest, who wrote a book about Phillips in 2019 called "Come On, America: The Inspirational Journey of Ambassador Dave Phillips."

Clinard said this was an example of Phillips' efforts to get the state more involved in High Point economic development projects.

In 1992, he was named N.C. Secretary of Commerce by Gov. Jim Hunt, a position that entailed recruiting industry to the state.

"The one thing he always said was, he loved people," Bogest said. "You would go into a room with him, and there would not be one person he would not go up to and say hello. He was always so interested in everyone. He always had a smile on his face and had a positive personality. He was always positive, no matter what."

Phillips was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2007 to serve as U.S. ambassador to Estonia, a post he held for two years.

"He was a fabulous ambassador," his wife recalled. "He gave of himself."