Longtime gay activist Phillip Rush dies

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imagePhillip Rush, a longtime gay activist in Atlanta, died early Tuesday of complications arising from a blood clot, according to friends.

The Nashville native and longtime Atlantan lived in Decatur. Until recently, he was a program officer for the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta where he assisted non-profit groups in applying for funding.

Funeral arrangements are still being made, friends said Tuesday morning.

Friends and LGBT activists are reacting to Rush’s death on his Facebook page:

Zandra Conway: My day just stopped, our Father/Mother God is honored to have you in his presence – much love my friend!

Allen Thornell: Allen is mourning the passing of Phillip Rush.

Jim Coonan: You’ve been someone who added light to the world. We will miss you.

LeeAnn Jones: Very sad. A tremendous loss for our community.

Alicia Philipp Oh, Phillip, you left us way, way too soon. Your very being and being here made such a difference. You will be so missed. Love, Alicia

Rush, 55, spoke out on several issues, including the needs of gay seniors.

[Rush] said it is important for individuals to start speaking out — to their elected officials, their places of work, their friends — to let them know gay seniors need to be cared for.

“We are going to have to stand up and make change,” he said.

Rush compared today’s movement on taking care of gay seniors as the movement gay activists took up some 13 years ago when gay youth were underserved.

“At that time, we were being told there were no gay youth. Today we have a gay youth center and numerous gay youth groups,” he said.

“The power of the individual voice is much more amazing than you might think.”

Rush left the Community Foundation in March after 15 years to begin working for Next Incarnation. Rush described the Decatur-based firm as working with non-profit groups to develop funding recommendations.

Rush worked with both gay and non-gay initiatives at the Community Foundation, according to the organization’s profile of him.

Phillip serves as the Foundation’s representatives for the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta where he chairs the Low Income Strategy Board. He also serves on United Way’s Community Investment Committee, which oversees the distribution of more than $30 million in grants annually.

Phillip led the Foundation’s Lesbian & Gay Funding Initiative for Youth, Georgia’s first institutional response to the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (lgbt) and questioning youth from 1994 to 1999. From 2002 to 2007, he chaired the local FEMA grantmaking board and from 1994 through 2005, he served on the National Lesbian & Gay Community Funding Partnership Advisory Committee, which encouraged community foundations to fund lgbt issues.

Before joining the Foundation, Phillip held various leadership positions in two family businesses including serving as president of Wedgewood Industries, a manufacturing company serving the recreational vehicle industry in North America. He was appointed as a trustee of the Threshold Foundation, an arts commissioner for Nashville/Davidson County (Tennessee) and has served on a variety of nonprofit boards. He currently supports numerous nonprofit organizations advocating walkable urbanism, environmental sustainability and equal rights for lgbt individuals. Phillip graduated from Vanderbilt University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology.

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