Don Phillips

Noted Transportation Journalist

Don Phillips has been a newspaper reporter and freelance magazine journalist for almost 50 years, dating to his experience as a reporter and editor for The Plainsman, the student newspaper at Auburn University in Alabama. He was editor of The Plainsman in 1964-65 when Auburn was integrated. During the summer of 1964, he was an intern at The Atlanta Constitution.

Following college, Phillips went to work for United Press International in Atlanta, covering state government and civil rights, then becoming Atlanta bureau manager in 1969. In 1970, he transferred to Washington where he spent three years editing and then a decade covering Congress. At UPI, he covered the formation of Amtrak in 1971, the creation of Conrail from the lines of bankrupt Eastern and Midwestern railroads in 1976, and transportation deregulation in the early 1980's.

Phillips joined The Washington Post in 1985. He was weekend National editor for three years, and also helped the congressional staff for a year during a staff shortage before taking the transportation beat. Phillips specialized in aviation and rail safety, airlines and railroads as a business, the ups and downs of Amtrak, transportation legislation in Congress and the politics of transportation. He covered the merger of Conrail into Norfolk Southern and CSX in 1999. He covered every major airline crash and train wreck during this period, beginning with the crash of a United Airlines DC-10 in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1989. In later years, he covered the crash of a Valujet DC-9 in the Florida Everglades, the mystery crash of US Air Boeing 737 at Pittsburgh, the explosion of a Trans World Airlines Boeing 747 off Long Island, the crash of a Swissair MD-11 near Halifax and the downing of an Egyptair jet shortly after takeoff from New York. He had a hand in covering numerous European, South American, African and Asian crashes, working through sources in the United States and Europe.

In 2004, Phillips joined The International Herald Tribune in Paris for two years, covering all forms of transportation as well as the ongoing awakening of Europe to the need to spend billions of euros to build new high-speed railroads and modern highways, avoiding the transportation gridlock of the United States today.

Retiring from daily journalism in 2006, Phillips now writes regularly for magazines, including Trains Magazine where he has written a transportation column for most of the last 35 years.

Phillips was born in Birmingham, Ala., and went to elementary school and high school in Talladega, Ala.