Legendary tenor and former Kingsmen Quartet member Ernie Phillips, affectionately called "The Little Giant" by his fans, died of cancer Thursday, Nov. 29, at his home in Asheville, North Carolina. He was 68.
Phillips, a native of Cool Ridge, West Virginia, near Beckley, sang with the Kingsmen from 1977 to 1983. During that time he was nominated as favorite tenor by subscribers of Singing News magazine for six years. He won the award in 1980 and 1981.
Gospel singer Squire Parsons, a native of Newton in Roane County and now a resident of Leicester, North Carolian, said Thursday that he has lost a special friend.
"He was one of my dearest friends, a lot of that having to do with the fact that he also was from West Virginia," Parsons said.
Parsons left the Kingsmen to begin his own gospel singing ministry.
"When he joined the Kingsmen, we became very close friends," Parsons said. "After he left the Kingsmen and after a few months of solo ministry, he joined my ministry and we became even closer yet. He did my scheduling and we formed a group titled Squire Parsons and Redeemed. We were members of the same church, Trinity Baptist, in Asheville. He traveled with me many times through the years for special concerts. He had one of the greatest tenor voices in gospel music and he was one of the greatest Christian men I ever met."
Phillips also sang with the Land of the Sky Boys Quartet from Asheville between 2000 and 2018 and the Landmarks Quartet from Erwin, Tennessee, between 2006 and 2018.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete. Memorials may be made to Trinity Baptist Building Fund, 216 Shelburne Road, Asheville, NC 28806.