Rev. Channing E. Phillips was the first Black person nominated to serve as a potential presidential candidate by a major political party. In August of 1968. Rev. Phillips was backed by the Washington, D.C. delegation as its presidential nominee after the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
Phillips was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. on March 23, 1928. After moving to Washington, Phillips was a co-founder of the Coalition of Conscience, a collaborative collective of groups that worked to fight social ills in the city. In 1968, he was named the head of Senator Kennedy’s presidential campaign and was also head of the government-backed Housing Development Corporation.
On June 5, 1968. Kennedy was shot and killed by Sirhah Sirhan in Los Angeles before he was going to be presented as the Democratic Party nominee at its national convention.
That August, the delegation moved their support from Kennedy to Phillips, which some say is the first time in history a Black person was nominated as such at a major convention. Phillips was an early champion of home-rule status for Washington, D.C. and in 1971 ran against Walter E. Fauntroy to serve as the first congressional delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Phillips lost to Fauntroy, and later moved back to New York. The son of a Baptist minister, Phillips was the lead pastor for the Lincoln Temple, United Church of Christ in Washington.
In 1987, Phillips succumbed to cancer. He was 59.