Love a Waterman: Garland Phillips

Phillips Wharf wants to recognize and bring awareness to the waterman with their <3 a Waterman campaign.  Everyday people sit down to eat their meals but rarely take into account the work that went into bringing them their food. Just as farmers work the land, watermen work the water to bring the bounty of the Bay to your table.  For that reason, the focus of our campaign is to create a connection to the men and women that work the water to bring seafood to your table and for everyone to have a greater appreciation to them for all their hard work.   It is time that we stop taking for granted the Bay, its resources, and those who bring it to our table.

We're kicking off our campaign with a bio on Garland Phillips.  He is the namesake of our center and the inspiration behind our mission:
"Our mission is nothing short of saving our precious Chesapeake Bay as a natural resource and as a source of healthy seafood and productive jobs for our residents along its shores. It is through our many programs that we can help others understand how the daily decisions we make each day can impact the Bay and its health and well-being. "

Garland Phillips

Chesapeake Bay Watermen Garland Phillips
Born:  September 21, 1932
Died: February 9, 1979

Boats: PC Partners, PC Partners II, Hayruss, Hayruss II, Hayruss III, Hayruss IV

Garland was born in Easton, MD to parents Hazel  and Russell Phillips.  At an early age, Garland followed in his father's footsteps becoming a waterman.

Garland was just 19 when he went out with his cousin Lowery Cummings and seven other men in a haul-seine crew.  On Friday, August 19,1951, they set their net off Kent Island, near Bloody Point.  To their amazement, they found they had corralled over 150,000 pounds of hardheads and a half-dozen sharks.  This was the famous 75-Ton Catch, a record that will never be broken.

A few months later, he  married Adrienne "Pete"  Pyper on October 12th, 1951.  They celebrated the birth of their first child Lynne on August 17th, 1952, then  second daughter Kelley on April 23rd 1962.

In the early 1960's, Garland partnered with his uncle Lowery Cummings to create the
PC Partners.  PC Partners was the first clamming operation in the area.  Their first  boat, PC  Partners, was a center-conveyed catamaran; followed by the similar PC Partners II.

Garland started Phillips Wharf Seafood in 1969.  This was an almost entirely family run business dealing in the catching, buying, and selling of crabs, fish, and soft-shell crabs.   Garland and Pete  (wife) tended to their backyard floats at all hours while he and his father, among other watermen, went to work on the water    On the way in, most watermen would stop at the Philllips Wharf Seafood dock to unload their catch where Hazel  (mother) would be waiting to inventory, unload, and pay the watermen for their haul. The seafood was then loaded onto trucks to be shipped all over the East Coast. They  had many drivers including Russell (father) and Lynne (daughter). Pete also kept the  books as a day job while Kelley was in school.

Garland was a visionary.  He had a passion for the Bay and he worked hard to make
sure that future generations would have the same opportunities.   He understood the need for sustainable aquaculture practices and worked tirelessly  to bring them to the forefront.  " Garland Phillips was a waterman's waterman,  one of the Chesapeake's very best. He crabbed, clammed, dredged for oysters,  netted rockfish. But he worried deeply about the next generation. He was concerned  not only about new regulations and dwindling resources, but also about business  practices. How could watermen access government programs to help pay for boats  and gear? How should they handle their taxes and write-offs? Phillips urged local high schools to teach vocational/technical programs that would address those matters, as well as vessel safety. And he worked  with his friend Don Webster, an aquaculture specialist with Maryland Sea Grant, to try  to make those programs successful."

He was unfortunately never able to achieve his mission of making aquaculture more prevalent.  His life was cut short at the age of 46 when his boat went down winter fishing on February 9th, 1979.  All the lives of the crew were lost to the Bay.  Aboard the boat was Garland and his four cousins Rusty Cummings, Muir Cummings, T.R. Cummings and George Cummings.

Garland was kind, generous, and well known, liked, and respected in both his personal life and professional life. The excerpt below is from the Washington Post and truly displays how highly people thought of him:

"Phillips ran the queen of the fleet. His 50-foot fiberglass Hay Russ IV was the sturdiest, most powerful, and best equipped of the winter fishing boats, according to colleagues.The boat was well known and so was Phillips. "There isn't a place in the bay that he hasn't fished," said Rock Hall waterman Ronnie Fithian. "He was the type of fellow, he'd never get up in the morning with the idea he had to hide anything from anybody. Some people think they've got to keep it a secret when they find the fish, or they won't get their share. Garland wasn't like that. He would tell you what he was catching. "He's helped me a half-dozen times. If you were in trouble, you called Garland. If he was on the bay he'd give you help." Said waterman Wayne Brady, "He was a gung-ho fisherman. He'd spend $1,000 to make a dollar. Here he had a $90,000 boat running up and down the bay, but he was always willing to help anybody. Garland was the kind of guy who was willing to jeopardize his own life to help somebody else."


The money raised from our #GivingTuesday campaign will go to helping local watermen in the lengthy process of getting oyster leases, partial scholarships for anything they may need to help them set up or repair any equipment relating to aquaculture or towards other needs for creating a more sustainable environment for aquaculture so that we can continue enjoying the bounty the Bay has to offer and to foster an environment where the watermen can thrive.


Dear Phillips Wharf Environmental Center Supporter,

I want to share with you how Phillips Wharf Environmental Center is pivoting towards new horizons that strengthen our longevity into the future and make our educational programs much more accessible to diverse audiences.

In Phillips Wharf’s 14-year history – two challenges have remained constant—the rising costs of maintaining a waterfront campus and old buildings, and addressing the inaccessibility of Tilghman Island to many school systems and others unable to afford the cost or the time for the long trip from more urban areas like Easton.

With this in mind, Phillips Wharf’s Board of Directors have made a bold decision to ensure the sustainability of our future and educational programs by liquidating our assets on Tilghman Island—including the real estate and property—and re-focus the expected gains from the sale to re-open a location in Easton that the Board will determine.

Be assured—Phillips Wharf will always bring our students to meaningful interactions with the Chesapeake Bay’s ecosystem and inhabitants. We know technology and our FishMobile, for example, can bring experiences and education to more students when we can focus our operations more on education, and less on maintaining an underutilized campus with mounting deferred maintenance costs and more.

Phillips Wharf will continue to carry the essence of encouraging, educating, and engaging Chesapeake Bay stewards from a new location soon. In addition, we’ll be sure to share this exciting news when it comes to fruition with you.

In the meantime, thank you for caring about our students and the Chesapeake Bay as a natural resource and source of healthy seafood and productive jobs for the Shore’s residents. We are excited to bring the Chesapeake Bay closer to our students and the public in ways that are more meaningful. This is a bold step forward not only in Phillips Wharf’s survivability, but also in our thrivability.

Please reach out to me with any questions or concerns you may have. You can reach me at [email protected] or 410-886-9200.

Warmest regards,


Matthew Albers

Board President, Phillips Wharf Environmental Center