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Phillips, Charles

Charles Phillips (1822-1889), the oldest child of Julia Vermeule and James Phillips, was born in Harlem, NY, and moved to Chapel Hill in 1826, when his father became professor of mathematics and natural philosophy. Charles entered the University in 1837, became a member of the Dialectic Society, and graduated with first honors in 1841. He read medicine with Dr. William Jones of Chapel Hill, then spent a year at Princeton Theological Seminary. In 1844 he received an MA from the University and returned to Chapel Hill to assist his father as tutor of mathematics. He married Laura Caroline Battle in 1847; they were the parents of eight children. Nicknamed "Fatty" by students, Phillips served as tutor until 1853, when he became professor of civil engineering. In 1857 he published a trigonometry textbook and was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Orange. He and his wife inaugurated the first Sunday school for African-Americans in Chapel Hill. When the Reconstruction legislature reorganized the University, Phillips accepted a professorship of mathematics at Davidson College in 1869, returning to the University as professor of mathematics when it reopened in 1875. Rheumatic gout forced him to retire in 1879, and he died in Columbia, SC, en route to live with his sons in Birmingham, AL. Phillips received the DD degree from the University in 1868 and an LLD degree from Davidson College in 1876 (Dictionary of North Carolina Biography 5:89-90).