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Former Sylacaugan Steve Phillips loses cancer battle


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Steve Phillips passed away this morning after a 20-month battle with brain cancer.

A graduate of Sylacauga High School and the University of Alabama, Phillips started his broadcast career at WMLS-AM (now WYEA-AM) in Sylacauga. While earning a communications degree in Tuscaloosa, he worked at WTBC-AM, where James Spann was a colleague.

“Steve was our newsman, and I was playing rock and roll on the radio,” Spann told “Our friendship bonded over the years, and we would work together again at Channel 13 in Birmingham in the 80s.”

Phillips left WVTM-TV for WKRN-TV, Nashville, and then joined WBIR-TV, Knoxville, where, after more than 10 years, he retired in 2013 as sports director and anchor and returned to radio with Tennessee Sports Radio. He had also been co-host and producer of This Week In Country Music on The Nashville Network.

In late 2016, Phillips was diagnosed with an aggressive and lethal brain cancer known as glioblastoma multiforme, which meant he had more than one malignant tumor. Treatment ended in early June.

WBIR-TV reported on his death on Sunday afternoon.

“Steve said many times the greatest legacy he can leave is his testimony,” the station posted on its website. “Never once during this horrific cancer battle has he doubted God’s love or faithful promise.”

Last June, he was the subject of a WBIR-TV feature, “Faith and Freedom: The Steve Phillips Story”.

Steve “courageously fought brain cancer — the same type that Senator John McCain is fighting,” said Tim Gardner, also a former WTBC-AM colleague and a former news director at WVTM-TV. “In our last call, I asked him for any ‘life advice’ he could give me. He said, ‘…Just go with God.’ I wrote that, his name, and the date on a Sticky Note and put it on the dashboard of my car where it remains today — and will for a long time to come.”

“He loved people, including those he worked with and those who watched him on television,” Spann added. “His faith strengthened over the years, and it was remarkable to watch him fight this battle with no fear, and by continuing to love those surrounding him. He set a great example for us all.”

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