In addition to being the wife of a dynamic and loved pastor, Miriam Faulcon Phillips has also been a writer, an activist, a social worker, an organizer, and a mother. She is remembered fondly as a teacher, a leader, and a helper. Her dedication to various causes earned her considerable respect amongst Baptist and African American communities beyond the greater Boston area.
Originally from Haverhill, Massachusetts, Miriam Faulcon came to West Medford in 1954 when she married Reverend Oscar G. (“O.G.”) Phillips, the longest-serving pastor of the Shiloh Baptist Church. Before marriage Miriam went to college and earned technical certificates in Display Art and Engineering Drawing, then worked as a draftsperson for the Boston Navy Yard during World War II. Miriam was devoted to the Civil Rights movement. She was a friend of Martin Luther King, was a co-founder of the Medford branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and was active in the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE). In addition to holding the time-consuming job of Church Secretary for the Shiloh Church, Miriam was also a Commissioner of the Medford Housing Authority in the 1970s.
Through the American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts and Church Women United, Miriam was able to help the church in its goal of integrating the Baptist churches in Massachusetts. Because of her work with the denomination, she was able to help Shiloh achieve a prominent place among the Baptist churches in the state. She was involved with a wide variety of Baptist groups and was able to bring other members of the congregation into leadership positions within the larger organization.
Family was always extremely important to Miriam. The Phillips’ son, Peter, and their daughter, young Miriam, were very active in the church and in the Shiloh community’s many offerings for young people. Because of her children, Miriam was an actively involved parent in the Medford public schools, especially during the controversy over busing. Even with her activities in the church, Miriam was able to balance her work and home lives. She was a committed caretaker and took care not of only her children and OG, but also others-such as her mother-who lived with the family.
Miriam also loved literature and creative writing. After her children were raised and she had a little more time, Miriam took on yet another project: earning a Master of Arts degree in English composition, which she was awarded in 1987 by the University of Massachusetts, Boston. As part of her work for her Masters she completed a memoir, Gentle Wisdom from the Fishbowl.
Miriam now lives in a nursing home. She is frail and in her 90s, but is still able to participate in many of the activities sponsored by the home. Her life reflects the times in which she lived, striving as she did for equality and justice through her work in her denomination, her city, her neighborhood, her husband’s ministry, and her own writing.
In Medford, the Housing Authority honored her by naming a new building for her. Because her generosity and spirit impacted the community at all levels, it is a fitting tribute that a woman so dedicated to providing a home for those she loved is remembered through a building dedicated to giving others homes of their own.
Gwynne Langley, May 2005
Resource persons: Hon. Marie Oliver Jackson, Mrs. Leona Martin, Mr. David Phillips, Rev. Lois Pinton, Mrs. Evelyn Tyner