Tributes poured in throughout the day live on the airwaves this afternoon, as countless Bermudians called in to pay tribute to Bermuda’s media icon, journalist, historian and author, the late Ira Philip.
Mr Philip passed away last night, at the age of 92. News of his untimely passing was first reported by TNN News. By mid-morning, Mr Philip’s passing would evolve into a show dedicated to commemorate what is no doubt a great loss to the people of Bermuda.
Sherri Simmons was inundated with calls from a host of residents, including former colleagues, family and friends. Among the many callers, was a long-time colleague and friend, Delano Ingham, who expressed shock on hearing the news this morning.
He recalled that he had just spoken to Mr Philip last night, while visiting him with Salvation Army Church members, who visit the Dorothy Crane Seniors home on Top Square in St George’s, on the second Sunday of every month.
When contacted by Bermuda Real, Mr Ingham said, little did he know that it would be the last time he would ever speak to his long-time colleague and friend.
“I said to him do you remember Bermuda’s number one mezzo soprano,” said Mr Ingham. “I was referring to his late wife, Ismay. He said ‘yes, she was the best’ and I said to him while leaving that I wish you a peaceful and blessed night.
“That’s the last thing i said to him and he said good night. I was absolutely devastated when I realized that I’m never going to talk to him again.” he said.
“I never figured based on the temperament that he had that he would die only a few hours after that – here today and gone today! And I never expected it!
“I didn’t hear about it until I hear all these people paying tribute to someone on the show today, then I realized they were talking about Ira Philip and I was totally stunned.
“I started calling the show right away and it took some time to get through,” he added.
On learning of the passing of Mr Ira Philip, MBE, JP, Premier David Burt stated: “Through his pen came knowledge and empowerment as he shone in a light on the full history of Bermuda.
“He courageously recorded the struggle of black Bermudians to build a society and institutions to improve their lives and those of their descendants. Ira Philip’s columns, commentaries and books have schooled generations of Bermudians and through his writings we have come to know our story, told in a unique voice.
“From his journalistic beginnings with the Bermuda Recorder newspaper, Ira Philip went on to dominate broadcasting as well as a reporter with station ZFB.
“His career of public service spanned several decades and as we reflect on his life’s work, his contribution has undoubtedly enriched the fabric of Bermuda.
“On behalf of the Government and the people of Bermuda I share our heartfelt thoughts and prayers with his family as they mourn the loss of this patriarch.
“Describing the importance of the Bermuda Recorder, Ira Philip essentially penned his own epitaph in words which, with little paraphrasing, easily apply to him: ‘(He) developed a personality and a soul that gave dignity and opportunity to the black people of Bermuda that was not forthcoming from other sources. (He) celebrated their achievements, mourned their losses, defended their rights and articulated their needs’.”
Saddened by the death of Progressive Labour Party stalwart, a party spokesperson said: “As the first News Director of Capital Broadcasting ZFB Radio, a journalist and reporter for the Bermuda Recorder and author of numerous books, Mr Philip’s articles and columns featured civil rights in Bermuda and highlighted the struggles and successes of Bermuda’s trade union
“He could be counted on to capture events around the island, with pen and camera in hand, showcasing life in Bermuda.
“For his excellence and commitment to journalism, Mr Philip was awarded the Trailblazer in the Media Award by the Second District of AME Churches in Washington, DC, and was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Bermuda Arts Council.
“Mr Philip was no stranger to politics. He ran as a PLP candidate, served as a PLP Senator, and held the role of Party Chairman between 1985-1991.
“Mr Philip’s contribution to the Party was invaluable, and his work with the Party in the aftermath of the 1986 election saw him guiding the evolution of the Party in its transition back into the leadership of the lay members from parliamentarians. He fought when it was unpopular to do so, but he understood the need for a better life and that social and economic justice was the vehicle to obtaining it.
“Our heartfelt condolences go out to his children, Ira, Veronica, Don Quidell, Braxton, Carlsen, Anthony & Deborah, and their respective children and families.
“We sincerely thank you for sharing your father with the Bermuda Progressive Labour Party, and the wider Bermuda. May your hearts be filled with comfort and memories of your dear father, and may these memories comfort you during this difficult time.”
Mr Philip’s career spanned six decades and started at time when Bermuda was legally and fiercely segregated. Over the years he covered some of Bermuda’s most pivotal events in modern history.
Well known for his biographies such as Freedom Fighters: From Monk to Mazumbo, Hakim: Son of Mazumbo and Bermuda Heroines in the Health Profession, he was widely read for decades by members of the community while working at the Recorder.
And over the years he met internationally known figures, including Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, the Queen, Margaret Thatcher, and Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gadaffi.
On behalf of Bermuda Real we express our sincere condolences to the family and many friends of the late Ira Philip.