Phillip O Berry was born in 1940 and was one out of seven children. At 14 years old, he was orphaned and his grandmother took him in. In his youth, he was very interested in space, science, and technology. He even went to the library to study more about the field he had grown to love. When Phillip was ready for high school, he was eager to attend West Mecklenburg High School. West Meck as we know it today was well known for the subjects needed to prepare him for his career.
Due to segregation, Phillip was unable to attend West Meck. Instead, he enrolled in Plato Price high school where he graduated valedictorian of his class. He went on to attend Howard University, where he studied to become a businessman. He attended Howard for 2 years and left because he couldn’t afford the rest of his education. After leaving he joined the U.S. Air Force and served from 1960 to 1968. While enlisted, he earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering and math at the University of Omaha. He began studying real estate at Central Piedmont Community College, (CPCC) and attended the Carolina School of Banking and Stonier Graduate School of Banking. In 1968 he began campaigning for Charlotte Mecklenburg School Board. In 1970 he became the first African-American branch manager of a white-owned local Charlotte Bank called North Carolina National bank, (NCNB). In 1972 he was the first African-American to be elected to the CMS board of education.
Mr. Berry left NCNB and became an assistant vice president at the Mechanics and Farmers Bank in Charlotte in 1973, which is a black-owned bank. In 1977, he was elected chairman of the CMS Board of Education. He served in this capacity until 1982, where he got elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives. Phillip O Berry had an early business career operating three coffee and doughnut shops and was in partnership with King Funeral Home, which is now known as King and Berry Funeral Services Inc. While still serving in the North Carolina House of Representatives, he decided to campaign for a spot in the North Carolina Senate in 1984. He sadly passed in October 1984 just before he was elected Senate for North Carolina.
Phillip O Berry has done many great things for his country and his Charlotte community. He was involved in fundraising for the United Negro College Fund and McCrory YMCA. He was even a deacon at Salem Baptist Church. The Charlotte community loved him so much they decided to establish a magnet school named after him that teaches his favorite subjects: math, science, technology, and engineering.
Written By: Bryce Hall, Victory Christian HS