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franklin county times

50th Phil joins PC signpost

It’s been 29 years since people named Phil Campbell – and variations of the name – first began annually converging on the small Alabama town that shares the moniker. In April Phil Campbell drew a new Phil to town – from across the pond.  

Phil Campbell has welcomed Phils from all over the state, country and world. Men and women who share the name have visited from Michigan, Alaska, California, New York and  Wisconsin, just to name a few of the many states. International Phils have come from Scotland and Australia, as well as England. Now another British Phil, from York, England, has added his name to the downtown signpost honoring the world’s Phil Campbells.  

York Phil, along with his wife Andrea and son Jacob, 25, made the pilgrimage to Alabama last month after first learning about Phil Campbell, Ala., 15 years ago from Brooklyn Phil, the instigator who has continued to spearhead efforts to bring Phil Campbells to Phil Campbell. York Phil said connecting with Brooklyn Phil marked the first moment he even knew another person shared his name – to say nothing of a town. 

“It’s great to be here,” said York Phil as he met and mingled with PC residents. He said he had originally hoped to visit a few years ago, during the year he turned 50, but the COVID-19 pandemic hindered those plans. Although the timeline had to change, it never changed his intention to one day come to the town that shares his name. 

“Obviously I was quite excited to go there,” York Phil said. He received his sign from Brooklyn Phil on the very day of his 50th birthday, and he propped it on the windowsill in his home office. “Every time I would look at it, I would think, ‘It doesn’t belong here. It belongs there.’” It was the most important item packed in his suitcase for the trip. 

The York Campbells had been to the U.S. before – once to New York and once on a road trip throughout the West, visiting places like San Francisco, Los Angeles, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park. This, however, was their first trip to the Southeast. York Phil said they flew into New York and spent three days there before flying into Birmingham and making their way up to Franklin County.   

Town Councilman Phillip King was among those on hand to greet the York Campbells during their visit. “They came a long way,” King noted – more than 4,200 miles. “We welcome Phil and his family … We are very proud.” 

“We had a good little crowd, and we appreciate everybody coming out,” King added.  

Brimingham Phil and his wife also made it a point to be on hand for the occasion – made more monumental because York Phil is the 50th to add his own sign to the downtown signpost. “We’re glad to be back in town. It’s always a special time to be here,” Birmingham Phil said. “Everyone here is always so nice, and it feels like home.” 

York Phil offered a “massive thanks” to the Birmingham couple, who he said were so welcoming and hospitable. The two families spent much of the day together, and the Birmingham Campbells took the York Campbells to visit nearby Natural Bridge Park in Winston County. 

“When we meet a new Phil, we are immediate friends,” Birmingham Phil’s wife Sheri added. “It’s such an amazing and surreal experience to have the same first and last name.” 

“Surreal” was also the word Andrea Campbell used to describe the experience, while Jacob Campbell noted how special it was to have their dream become a reality after so many years of hoping and planning to make the trip. Jacob’s twin Abigail also joined in the visit via video call.  

Each sign on the downtown post is unique and pays homage in some way to that Phil’s home. York Phil’s sign includes a rendering of the Heart of Yorkshire, a famous intricately-designed window in the York Minster cathedral. 

York, England, is an old city in the UK with plenty of history. Much of the old city walls are still standing, and there are several medieval buildings. York Phil said his family lives in a townhouse about 10 minutes from the city center, where he, his wife and son all work from home; daughter Abigail lives in Scotland.  

York Phil is a former high school history teacher who is now a teacher trainer. He can sometimes be found working in a school with new teachers in person, when he’s not working from his home office.  

The family’s return trip was nearly upended by the earthquake that hit New York April 5 – the very day they were set to fly out. Fortunately for them, the LaGuardia Airport remained open, and they were able to fly home to York as planned.  

Though York Phil and his family have returned home, a piece of the family is forever represented on a small town Alabama signpost. Nearly all the signs, including York Phil’s, were designed and created by Brooklyn Phil. York Phil’s has now made its way from a UK windowsill to be properly installed where it belongs: alongside those of fellow Phils from all over the world who have visited the town that shares their name.