nl-phillips-lanier-20080602

Lanier Phillips visited the St. Lawrence area in 2008 with his family. ((CBC))

Lanier Phillips, the U.S. serviceman whose story of rescue in the Second World War has travelled around the world, was given honorary membership Monday in the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Phillips has often said the kindness he was shown after he was pulled from the wreckage of the U.S.S. Truxtun near St. Lawrence in February 1942 changed his life, and helped trigger his lifelong interest in civil rights.

Phillips, who is black, said the rescue marked the first time that white people treated him as an equal.

"Had it not been for the people of St. Lawrence, I would have had no family," he told CBC News during a 2008 visit to the area.

His story — which includes an amusing incident in which his rescuers scrubbed at his skin, believing he was coated with oil from the wreckage — has been told in documentaries and most recently in the Robert Chafe play, Oil and Water, which was staged this winter at the LSPU Hall in St. John's.

Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie announced the honour on Monday in a statement.

Also named to the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador were:

  • Alton Best; the founder of the Labrador music group the Flummies;
  • Angus Bruneau, Fortis Inc. founder and philanthropist;
  • Sister Elizabeth Davis, health care administrator;
  • Frances Ennis, writer and literacy advocate;
  • Susan Green, a driving force behind such groups as Kids Eat Smart and the School Lunch Association;
  • Wayne Nesbit, educator and special needs authority;
  • Ches Penney, businessman and philanthropist;
  • Frances Vardy, a founder of Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador and the Stephenville Festival.