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Barbershop owner remembers Tulsa shooting victim Dr. Preston Phillips as first investor

Dr. Preston Phillips
Posted at 3:58 PM, Jun 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-06 15:20:40-04

TULSA, Okla. — The owner of a local barbershop is remembering Dr. Preston Phillips, the first Tulsa investor in his growing business.

Phillips died in the mass shooting Wednesday at the Saint Francis Health System's Natalie Building.

“How could it be him? A guy who was so loved and so respected to be taken out to leave this world in that matter is just devastating,” said Mike Kelly.

Kelly owns Barber King. He met Phillips in 2005 shortly after he moved his business to Tulsa. He said he’ll never forget how Phillips invested in him and his community.

“The reminder that he’s gone leaves a big hole in my heart and that pain won’t go away,” said Kelly.

At Barber King Friday afternoon, Phillips’ long-time friend Darnell Blackmon shared about his life.

“He’s an icon. He’s a beacon. He’s a brother,” said Blackmon.

Phillips and Blackmon were the only two Black orthopedic surgeons in Tulsa. It was a small brotherhood made even smaller by this week’s tragedy.

“We’ve had a huge loss in our community and that torch now has to be passed and I just hope we’re worthy enough to carry it like he did,” said Blackmon.

It was at Barber King that Phillips made a huge difference in the life of owner Mike Kelly.

“It was overwhelming that he saw fit to invest his own money into my shop,” said Kelly.

Kelly first opened his shop near 61st and Peoria in 2005. Less than a year into business, Phillips walked in the door.

“Dr. Phillips who sat in my chair said, ‘Mike, I believe in you. Let’s make some magic happen.’ He helped me do that,” Kelly said.

First, Phillips helped Mike Kelly with a car. Then, he became the very first investor in Kelly’s business in Tulsa as he worked to expand.

“He is an icon here in Tulsa, and it’s unthinkable that he’s no longer with us here, but his legacy lives on and I’m glad that we’re just part of his legacy,” said Kelly.

The name Preston Phillips graces the 100 Legends of Barber King list on the outside of the shop's current location near 21st Street and Memorial. Kelly says Phillips’ picture will soon join the others as well.

As Kelly and Blackmon deal with the tragic loss of a friend and supporter, they said his legacy will never be forgotten.

“For him it wasn’t about status or recognition. It’s not about somebody knowing what you do as much as it is getting the job done and making an impact,” said Blackmon.

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