When he was 13, Trey Phillips made up his mind: He wanted a career that involved the law. And anybody who knew Mr. Phillips understood once he said something, it was pretty much a done deal.
"He didn't know if he wanted to be a police officer or a lawyer, but he knew he wanted to do something like that," said Chris McClurg, a Gwinnett attorney and friend. "And he ended up being a lawyer."
Mr. Phillips was known to be fierce in the courtroom, but he could easily turn into a funnyman when court wasn't in session. Craig Garner, a friend, and 30-year police veteran in the metro area, said Mr. Phillips' spirited nature couldn't be suppressed. Mr. Garner, who serves as the national president of the Blue Bloods Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club, said his biker brother once broke formation and rode at the front of the pack, which is designated for club officers.
"I hear these pipes coming up next to me, and I ask him what he's doing," Mr. Garner says, with a light chuckle. "And he looks at me and says, 'I'm a leader, not a follower. I don't ride in the back.' And he was right, he was a leader."
While riding his motorcycle Friday, Trey Edward Phillips was hit by a car and died of injuries sustained in the collision. He was 43. A funeral service is planned for 11 a.m. Thursday at Tom M. Wages, Lawrenceville, which is also in charge of arrangements. Burial, with military honors, will follow at the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton.
Born in Baton Rouge, La., Mr. Phillips served eight years in the Army, where he was a field medic. He earned a bachelor's degree in business from Emory University and worked as an analyst for several years before going to law school. Armed with a law degree from the University of Georgia, Mr. Phillips started his own law practice in Gwinnett County.
"I'd mess with him and say I enforce the law and he'd come back and say 'Yeah, but I enforce the constitution,'" Mr. Garner said with a laugh. "And we'd agree to disagree. But I guess there is a fine line between a lawyer and a comedian," he added, laughing even harder.
And while he chose law as his career, he didn't let it consume his life, friends said. He enjoyed, and participated in all kinds of activities, especially those that put him in motion.
"He was a licensed pilot," Mr. McClurg said. "He was a master scuba diver; he did it all. I mean this guy was living life."
Friend Bruce Troville, said Mr. Phillips' military experience likely contributed to his willingness to do what he loved, no matter what it was.
"He spent time in combat and he spent time with people who were wounded in combat," said Mr. Troville, who is the director of national operations for the motorcycle club. "And when he came out of the military, he just enjoyed life."
Mr. Phillips is survived by his father, James M. Phillips Sr., and stepmother, Salli Phillips, both of Baton Rouge, La.; and brothers, James M. Phillips Jr. of Los Altos, Calif., and Douglas Phillips of London, England.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.