Phillips Lord was a radio personality and the creator of several popular radio serials of the 1930s and '40s including "Gang Busters" and "Seth Parker."
Lord was born July 13, 1902, in Hartford, Vt., but he moved with his family to Meriden, Conn., as a child when his father accepted the job of pastor at Meriden's First Congregational Church. He attended Andover Academy and Bowdoin College, and after graduation began his career as a school principal.
He gave up his career in education, though, to take a job writing radio scripts for a station in Hartford, Conn. Later, he moved to New York to continue his writing career, but he struggled to make ends meet and eventually took a job in a candy factory. One night, listening to the radio, he heard a program that irked him because he felt it didn't accurately depict country folk. He resolved to do better himself, and his "Seth Parker" clergyman character was born.
After debuting on a small station, "Seth Parker" graduated to the big time — a nationwide broadcast — and Lord quickly became a star. The series was immensely popular; an estimated 4 million people tuned in for each down-home broadcast that featured ordinary folks gathering to sing hymns and tell jokes and stories. A unique feature of the show was a 15-second period in each broadcast devoted to silent prayer.
Lord credited the prayer segment for a large chunk of the show's popularity. Asked for the secret of his success, he remarked, "Song, simplicity, sincerity, personality and my fifteen seconds of silent prayer."
Later, the series was adapted for the screen in "Way Back Home" (1931) which starred Lord and Bette Davis.
Lord also came up with the idea of broadcasting a radio program from a ship sailing to exotic locations; he purchased a schooner, renamed it the Seth Parker and took off traveling. The remote broadcasts were immensely popular with audiences, but it was hardly smooth sailing for those aboard the ship. It was disabled by a South Pacific storm, which effectively ended the adventure and necessitated a rescue at sea.
After "Seth Parker," Lord developed a number of other radio projects, most notably "Gang Busters," which depicted the efforts of law enforcement agencies to fight crime.
He died at age 73 on Oct. 19, 1975, in Ellsworth, Maine.