James F. Phillips
Born in Aurora, Illinois, Phillips was first motivated in the 1960s to plug a sewage outfall after seeing dead ducks in the Fox River. In the following years, his activism included leaving signs around town criticizing US Steel, plugging sewer outlets, placing caps on top of smoke stacks, leaving skunks on the doorsteps of the owners of polluting companies, and, in one case, transporting 50 pounds of sewage from Lake Michigan into the reception room of the company that discharged it. His direct-action techniques were later copied by Greenpeace and other environmental action organizations.
In his daily life, Phillips was a middle school science teacher and, later, a field inspector for the Kane County Environmental Department. Although he never admitted to his role as the Fox, family and friends confirmed this identity.
Reactions to his activities were mixed. The police said they would charge the Fox if he were caught, but were unable to do so. One federal official suggested that the Fox's activities represented a challenge as to whether "we, as individuals in a technological society, have the will to control and prevent the degradation of our environment."
- "James Phillips, 70, Environmentalist Who Was Called the Fox." Obituary. The New York Times, October 22, 2001.
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