Levi Phillips remembered at memorial service | WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Family and friends gathered on Tuesday to remember the life of former WVU basketball player and Charleston High School star Levi Phillips.
Phillips, 69, died last week after losing a battle to a long illness.
Those in attendance at the Charleston Municipal Auditorium cried, smiled, laughed and even gave a few standing ovations as Phillips’ life was told.
But the service also included a discussion of Levi’s struggles with drug addiction and his time in prison because of it.
Phillips’ close friend and lawyer Tim Dipiero said Levi would have spent more time behind bars without the decisions of former US Attorney Kasey Warner and US District Judge Joe Bob Goodwin to give him a second chance . Dipiero said his friend made the most of it.
Dipiero told the large crowd that others struggling with drugs deserve similar treatment. He spoke of an ongoing effort to convince the legislature to change the current “three strikes, you’re out” rule to again include the requirement that two of the three convictions be for violent crimes. He said it would prevent those who get into drug trouble, who have not committed violent crimes, from being sentenced to life in prison. The legislature has amended the law in recent years by removing the violent crime requirement.
“We must limit the application of the rule to those who commit two violent sanctions as before. We’re going to title it, the Levi Phillips Amendment, ”said Dipiero. “I pray that his legacy of turning tragedy into triumph will continue with this amendment enacted in his name and allow other men and women the opportunity to redeem their lives.”
He hopes it will be presented in the legislative session next year.
US Senator Joe Manchin was among those who spoke about Phillips serving on Tuesday.
“It was my honor to call him my friend,” Manchin said. “There was never a time when I was on the street in Charleston or the Capitol where Levi didn’t see me and came over to give me a hug.”
Phillips’ daughter-in-law, Tracy Phillips, read a letter from WVU basketball coach Bob Huggins.
“My brother Levi Phillips is gone,” Huggins wrote. “But the ways he positively touched thousands of lives, including mine, will never be forgotten.”
Dipiero said Levi had a special gift.
“Levi was one of a kind, funny, silly, big hearted with just his own unique style and through thick and thin he always came together somehow and made you smile,” Dipiero said. .