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Phillips, Nathan


PHILLIPS, NATHAN (1892–1976), Canadian politician. Phillips was born in Brockville, Ontario, the descendent of a pioneer Canadian Jewish family. He graduated from high school at 16 and in 1913 at age 21 graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. A member of the Toronto law firm of Phillips and Phillips, Phillips acted as crown counsel at various Ontario Assizes and in 1929 was appointed king's council, the youngest in Ontario. Phillips was also a member of the Conservative Party and unsuccessfully ran for federal and provincial office. He was more successful in municipal politics. He was a member of Toronto City Council for 36 years, and won two back-to-back terms as mayor of Toronto, serving from 1955 until his retirement in 1962. Phillips' election as mayor was notable in that he was not only the first Jewish mayor of Toronto or any other major Canadian city, but he was also the first politician to break the Orange Order's iron hold on the political power of Toronto. His term as mayor marked a turning point in the city, a transforming moment when Toronto shifted from being a staunchly Protestant, Anglocentric, and conservative city to become a modern cosmopolitan and thriving metropolis. Fittingly, Phillips was popularly dubbed "mayor of all the people." Determined that his city should have a new showcase City Hall, he won approval for an international design competition that was ultimately won by Finnish architect Viljo Revell with a strikingly avante-garde design. The large public square in front of the building is named for Phillips. Phillips was a member of several service groups including the Masonic Order, the Order of Eagles, and the Lions and Kiwanis Clubs. He was president of Toronto Lodge B'nai B'rith and honorary president of the Holy Blossom Temple Brotherhood and was the recipient of the Human Relations Award from the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews in 1959.

[Frank Bialystok (2nd edition)]

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