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Gov. Philip W. Noel
(1931-) ~ Inducted 2011
Phil Noel is a native of Warwick, a city he transformed and in some ways never left. Born on June 6, 1931, the son of Joe Noel, an auto mechanic and Emma Crudeli Noel, a jewelry worker, Phil was educated in the Warwick public school system where his leadership skills, work ethic, scholastic ability, and athletic prowess propelled him to his class presidency and all-state honors in football at Samuel Gorton High School.
Phil accepted a football scholarship to Georgetown University, but transferred to Brown when Georgetown dropped football. At Brown, his size and strength earned him selection to the school’s all-decade football team.
After graduation from Brown in 1954 with a degree in economics, Phil returned to Georgetown for his degree in law. He then began his professional career as a solo practitioner with offices in Providence and Warwick. He added to his growing status and prospects by marrying Joyce Anne Sandberg, Miss Rhode Island of 1953. With Joyce he began another career, as a family man, eventually fathering five children who in turn gave him eight grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Phil’s natural good looks and imposing stature combined with his other attributes to make him an ideal political candidate, or so he was told by his mentor John O. Pastore. After three terms as a Warwick city councilman, he became the city’s mayor for three productive terms during which he was instrumental in bringing the Rhode Island Mall and Warwick Mall to his city.
Phil was elected governor in 1972 and 1974, where his training and skill in economic development led to innovations that continue to exert a profound and beneficial impact upon Rhode Island. He sponsored legislation creating the Rhode Island Port Authority with power to take control over Quonset Point, Davisville, and other relinquished U.S. military property. He also established the state’s Department of Economic Development and sponsored legislation creating the Rhode Island Housing and Mortgage Finance Corporation (RIHMFC), an agency that has helped more than 60,000 Rhode Island families become homeowners.
Phil’s talents and achievements as governor attracted national attention from Democrats and Republicans alike. He received an important diplomatic appointment to China from President Richard Nixon and an appointment to the U.S. Commission on Intergovernmental Relations from President Gerald Ford. Phil also served as the acting chairman of the platform committee of the 1976 Democratic National Convention and chairman of the Democratic Governors’ Conference.
After an unsuccessful bid for a U.S. Senate seat in 1976, Phil resumed the practice of law in Providence and Washington, became a successful real estate developer, and founded several start-up companies in the petroleum industry, most of them based in Louisiana. At eighty years of age, he remains very active in various business enterprises including a Warwick marina and country club.
Phil and Joyce reside in Estero, Florida and summer in Warwick near the bay waters in which he fished and quahogged as a young man to finance his education. In 2008, Phil told a journalist that he would like to be remembered as “a successful athlete, student, lawyer, and businessman who worked hard, paid attention to his family, and provided sixteen years of honest public service.” That is exactly how I remember him!
- (Dr.) Patrick T. Conley
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