Rice, Phillip Leon Sr.

Phillip Leon Rice SR., Colonel, USAF (Retired)
June 03, 1930 – November 01, 2019


Colonel (ret.) Phillip Leon Rice, Sr., decorated veteran, beloved husband and father, left the battleground of life for the frontlines of eternity at the age of 89 on November 01, 2019. He fought his life’s last battle with the quiet courage, iron dignity and grace with which he lived his extraordinary life.

Born June 03, 1930 to Erma and William Rice in Birmingham Alabama, Phillip and his siblings Vernice, William, Robert and Wilma learned early their parents’ demanding code of discipline, hard work, and devotion to God. By age 7 Phillip had his first job setting type in the family print shop and he dutifully excelled at school. But he later embraced the freedom of jazz and played alto sax in nightclub jam sessions of “the Devil’s music”. As a son of the segregated South, he loved bar-b-que, hot sauce, even hotter cars and his mother’s peanut brittle. But he refused to suffer the savage indignities and vicious cruelty of Southern racism, and headed North in 1947 to Cleveland, Ohio.

In 1948, he transferred from Ohio State to Howard University where he pledged Alpha Phi Alpha, majored in German and completed Advance Air Force ROTC. But far more importantly, he asked Anna Louise Barnes to dance to his favorite song, “Laura”, and found his life partner. They married in 1952 and began a journey that would last 67 years and produce two sons, Phillip Jr. and Norman, and a daughter, Connie. They pulled off a parental miracle raising three kids through 17 military moves, and sending two to Harvard and one to Stanford. Phillip Jr. and Norman are medical doctors, and Connie is a lawyer. While proud of his military service, Phillip, Sr. would tell you his greatest accomplishments were his marriage and his kids.

Phillip and Anna, who became a high school science teacher, began a 25 year military career that spanned eleven different states, twelve foreign countries and Washington, D.C. Fluent in Russian, Phillip was designated the second best non-native Russian Linguist in the nation and the first African American Assistant Air Attaché to the U.S. Embassy in London. He also was a great pilot who mastered 14 different aircraft and flew over 400 combat missions in Vietnam. Whether flying his HH-43 helicopter into rocket fire to rescue the wounded sons of other Americans, saving drowning Japanese fishermen or standing alert on the frontlines of Cold War diplomacy, he served with honor and valor that achieved The Distinguished Flying Cross, The Legion of Merit, The Air Medal and Meritorious Service Medal. After retiring in 1977 he earned a doctorate degree from Columbia University and worked as a university lecturer, business consultant and author of “Mixed Bag”.

Phillip is survived by his wife Anna, his three children, five grandchildren, one great grandchild and many other relatives who will pay forward the principles he lived: Life is serious business. Failure is not an option. Selfless dedication is its own reward. Integrity is all. Stand and deliver. Speak truth to power. And do the right thing.

Let heaven know, a devoted soldier is on his way.

Integrity, Honor, and Respect
Some of the best things cannot be bought, they must be earned

©2023 USAF Rotorheads   All Rights Reserved   |   Financial Statement