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Mattie ‘Ruth’ Phillips

December 26, 1926 – April 20, 2023

Burial Date May 2, 2023

Funeral Home J. C. Battle & Sons Funeral Home

Cemetery Rest Haven Memorial Park

Church Union Baptist Church

Tuesday (05/02): Visitation – 9:30AM; Funeral Service – 11AM; Union Baptist Church; Interment – following service; Rest Haven Memorial Park

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On December 26, 1931, Mattie “Ruth” Brown Phillips was born to the union of Robert A. Brown and Octavia Jackson Brown in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1942, at the age of eleven, Ruth was inspired by God to accept Jesus as her personal Lord and Savior. Her profession of faith happened while attending a Union Baptist Church revival with her Mother, who was then a member of Antioch Baptist Church. Just as the blind revivalist sang “My Heavenly Father Watches Over Me” during the invitation, Ruth felt strongly drawn to Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. After asking her mother if it was ok to “go down front” and hearing her Mom’s instant approval and encouragement, Ruth gave her life to Jesus Christ. Her Mother, a member of Antioch Baptist at the time, soon followed her Daughter and joined Union Baptist a year later. Ruth’s Mother, Octavia later became a Sunday School Leader and faithful Deaconess at Union Baptist Church under the Pastorate of the late Reverend Wilbur Allen Page.

As an only child growing up in Cincinnati’s West End on 7th Street, Ruth’s parents bathed her in love, encouragement and spiritual nurturing . They sought the best for Ruth as she matured. Her Mother, although a domestic herself, encouraged Ruth to courageously and diligently pursue education as a means of further advancing her life. Ruth attended Stowe and Dyer Elementary Schools and later was accepted into Walnut Hills High School, as one of just a handful of African- American students at that time. Achieving such notable academic success, she was able to graduate a year early from Walnut Hills High School.

After graduating from Walnut Hills High School, Ruth attended the historic Black owned Cosmopolitan School of Music , which partnered with the University of Cincinnati to train and grant degrees to African-American music students during the times of segregation. Ruth excelled in her classwork and became one of the first African- Americans to receive a Bachelor’s degree from the University’s College Conservatory of Music. Ruth went on to earn a Master’s degree as well. Also, while at the University of Cincinnati, Ruth became an active member of the Zeta Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. Until her recent illness, Ruth was also an active member of the Cincinnati Alumni Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta. She was a Delta Dear, a member of the Dial-a-Delta communication committee and a member of the Delta Choraliers.

As Ruth began her career search after college, she was contacted by Wilson High School, a Freedmen’s Bureau School in Florence, South Carolina. The school was looking for Black teachers to further enhance the standard of education at the segregated school. The Principal offered Ruth and other teachers from various parts of the nation a good salary and room and board to teach at the school. Ruth made a significant impact on the lives of her students and established lifelong friendships at the school.

More significantly, while in Florence, S. Carolina, Ruth met the late Deacon Elisha Phillips, Jr., the love of her life. Love blossomed and after his service in the U.S. Marine Corps, the two young lovebirds wed in a beautiful wedding ceremony on June 23, 1956. They were married by the late Reverend Doctor Wilbur Allen page. Their bond spanned 58 years, producing four loving sons Brent, Darrell, Edward(deceased) and Reverend Trevor Phillips.

The boys flourished under the loving care of Ruth and Elisha. Just as Ruth’s parents encouraged her to excel in education, she also did the same with the Phillips Boys. She was instrumental in encouraging and helping them prepare for high school and the rigors of college. Also, Ruth made sure that her boys would be men of responsibility and excellence by giving them weekly chore lists to complete… and complete them well – they did. She would personally monitor the progress and quality of the work. If the work was not done to her expectation, no other activities could be ventured until the chores met her high standards. Ruth, with the assistance of Elisha or “Phil” as she would call him, also diligently provided spiritual nurturing and education for the Boys. Ruth and Phil not only led by teaching spiritual lessons, but they led by example as well. Ruth spent quality time with the boys helping them to learn Sunday school lessons and prepare them for Easter and Christmas programs and musical recitals. Ruth was truly a devoted and dedicated Mother, who made sure the boys left home with a good hearty breakfast, every day – whether she had to work or not. On birthdays, Ruth would be sure to make each brother’s favorite cake or dessert to joyfully celebrate.

Later, Ruth would be sure to call and sing a personal, early morning rendition of “ Happy Birthday” to each of her adult children, grands and great-grands and in-laws. Lastly, in proper preparation for the world around them, Ruth also taught her emergent young men the basics of preparing meals and other home economic basics to support themselves as well.

Outside the home, Ruth’s love for music combined with her God-given musical talents touched many students in the school districts of Covington, Kentucky, Florence, South Carolina, and Cincinnati. While out and about in the Cincinnati community, Ruth was often stopped by former students expressing their thanks for the impact she made on their lives and even upon their own musical careers. Ruth was a wonderful mentor and encourager to music students and professionals a-like.

Although Ruth was truly busy mothering her boys and engaged in her professional career, she had such a Heart of Service and remarkable energy for the Lord’s work, especially in the Music Ministry of Union Baptist Church. Most notable of which were her 40 plus years of service as Directress and one of the co-founders of The Spirimelodaires – an exceptional choir birthed from the Union Baptist Training Union that performed spirit filled concerts at Union and throughout the greater Cincinnati Region. Ruth’s heart of service and remarkable energy truly fueled her long years of faithful service to the Lord in the Union Baptist Church vineyard. She additionally served at Union in the following capacities:

  • Sunday School Pianist, began at the age of 14
  • Sunday School Teacher
  • Baptist Training Union Musical Director
  • Musician in Residence
  • Choir Director for Annual Women’s Day
  • Bereavement/Repass Committee Chair
  • Women’s Missionary Circle Member (Centennial Club, Lutie Club)
  • Vacation Bible School Teacher and Helper
  • College Student Ministry Leader

Ruth’s love of music benefited the community as well. She served on the American Negro Spiritual Festival Steering Committee and additionally as a past judge. Ruth served on the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Multi-Culture Awareness Committee. She also was an active member of the Taft Museum’s Paul Duncanson Task force. Ruth was a long time member of the American Organist Guild. Ruth was also a founding member of the Loretta C. Mangrum Chorale and one of its former Treasurers. The Chorale is named after one of her beloved mentors the late Dr. Loretta C. Mangrum. Ruth also lent her vocal talents to the Cincinnati Pop’s Classical Roots performances for several years. Fittingly, Ruth was recognized for her exemplary community service by her induction into the Cincinnati Senior Citizen Hall of Fame on November 17, 2017.

On the occasion of the 40th Anniversary of the Spirimelodaires she said:

“The music ministry of a church should not be minimized. It is an integral part of church worship services. Although there can be meaningful worship without a choir and/or instruments, the inclusion of either or both greatly enhances the total worship experience for believers and non-believers alike “

In Christian fellowship, love and service
-M. Ruth Phillips

“Dr. Ruth” as she is affectionately called, enjoyed her later years reading and studying the Bible, loving and encouraging her Grandkids and Great Grandkids, serving on the Union Baptist Church Prayer Band, attending choral, organ, classical and classical pop concerts, giving many private piano concerts to family and friends, watching mystery and detective movies, celebrating family birthdays, cheering on the Bengals and the Reds, trying out different pizza chains/stores, and nurturing relationships forged within the community she served.

Ruth leaves a wonderful legacy of Christian Womanhood behind for her friends and loved ones to remember and cherish. Her forgiving spirit, quiet resolve and determination to serve and glorify the Lord with her talents were quite evident throughout her lifetime.

She leaves three loving sons and their families: Brent (Pamela) of Virginia, Darrell (Robin) of Cincinnati, Reverend Trevor (Karla) of Cincinnati, Lyda Johnson Phillips (Widow, Edward Sr.), Cincinnati, Grandchildren: Kamillah Phillips Connolly (Philip), Brenton Phillips, Lauren Phillips, Austin Phillips, Darrell J. Tucker, Eddie Phillips, Jr.( Raven), Trevor Phillips, Jr, Morgan Phillips, Michael Johnson, Great Grandchildren: Ra’Aira Phillips, Ra’Myah Phillips, Elijah Phillips, Noel Tucker, Nia Tucker, and a host of other Relatives and Friends – much loved, but too numerous to list.

Ruth was preceded in death by Deacons Elisha Phillips, Jr., Edward Phillips, Sr. and Brother Bennie(Curly)Brown.

We have little doubt that they were there to meet Mattie Ruth, aptly assisting her passage to Heaven and the Lord she served so well.

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