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Columbus hostess makes unique Tenn-Tom centerpiece


Joy Phillips is pictured June 6 in her Columbus home with a dioramic replica she made representing the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.

Joy Phillips is pictured June 6 in her Columbus home with a dioramic replica she made representing the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff


Jan Swoope



When it comes to centerpieces, Joy Phillips knows how to make an impression. Instead of the usual floral arrangement for a reception in her home for the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority Board of Directors June 6, the Columbus hostess chose a more personalized approach. 


"She's so creative," said Agnes Zaiontz, business manager at the Waterway Development Authority. "She painted the canvas, and it looked just like the tugboat was going down the waterway. She did a beautiful job." 


Phillips usually creates paintings of landscapes, flowers, still lifes and people. Her waterway project was unlike anything she had attempted before. 


"It was almost like painting a mural," she said. "It was a lot of hard work, and when I first began I thought I had bitten off something I can't do."  


With canvas and acrylic paints, Phillips made a tribute to the 234-mile, man-made waterway that links commercial navigation from the country's mid-section to the Gulf of Mexico. Her husband, T.L. "Bud" Phillips, has been a gubernatorial appointee to the Authority board for most of the years since the waterway opened June 1, 1985.  


"He's just completely immersed in the success of it; it has such a huge impact on our economy," said Joy Phillips of her husband's commitment to the Tenn-Tom. The board is composed of the governors of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee and their representatives, and five appointees from each of the four states.  


The tugboat maneuvering down the Phillips' dining table June 6 was on loan from Parker Towing Co. Inc. of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The canvas, which occupied about two-thirds of the table surface, took about a week to finish. Phillips used moss, rocks and some artificial greenery to replicate a particular stretch of the waterway near Demopolis, Alabama.  


Lowndes County Board of Supervisors President Harry Sanders was among reception guests, which also included North Mississippi Transportation Commissioner and former Tenn-Tom Authority administrator Mike Tagert, former administrator Don Waldon and Columbus Mayor Robert Smith. 


"It was very unique; everyone was real impressed," said Sanders of the waterscape. "And the house and hospitality were fantastic. It was a best-foot-forward for Columbus, Mississippi, I tell you that." 


Phillips has donated the project to Parker Towing.


Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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