Phillips Haynes Lord was an American radio program writer, creator, producer and narrator as well as a motion picture actor, best known for the Gang Busters radio program that aired from 1935 to 1957.
Lord was born in the small town of Hartford, Vermont, the son of a Protestant clergyman. He was still an infant when his family moved to Meriden, Connecticut where his father accepted the pastorship of a local church. As a boy, Lord spent his summers with relatives in Maine and after completing high school, he studied at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts before going to Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. A born entrepreneur, while still in college he established a myriad of businesses including a book-selling operation, a shoe repair service and a taxi cab company. After graduation, the 22-year-old was hired as the Principal at the high school in the small town of Plainville, Connecticut, reportedly the youngest person in the United States to ever hold such a position. He soon grew bored with the job and headed to the big city of New York where, after a series of jobs in publishing, he began writing scripts for radio.
Phillips Lord was still in his twenties and living in New York City when he became a national radio personality. Creating the character “Seth Parker,” a clergyman and backwoods philosopher based on Hosea Phillips his real-life grandfather, Phillips Lord wrote stories for radio of rural New England humor that included the playing of old time songs. On his own initiative, he communicated with several stations across the U.S. and sold them scripts he labeled as “Seth Parker’s Singing School.” An instant hit, Lord was soon contacted by NBC Radio who contracted to buy scripts to produce a show to run six days a week that NBC called “Sunday Evening at Seth Parker’s.” This was followed by other magazine publications who acquired his scripts and before long Phillips Lord was earning close to $100,000 a year. Not limited in his scope, during this time he wrote other successful radio programs that were designed to conclude after a specific number of episodes were aired. Lord’s growing popularity resulted in his publishing two books in 1930 titled “Seth Parker’s Album” and “Seth Parker’s Hymnal” that all led to the release of 78rpm gospel records by the “Phillips Lord Trio. ” Lord and the radio show gained a wide audience and the September 1931 issue of The American Magazine did a feature article on him under the heading: “At 29 He Has Made a Million Friends.”
In 1932, Phillips Lord published a book titled “Seth Parker & His Jonesport Folks: Way Back Home” from which he also wrote a stage play titled “Seth Parker’s Jonesport Folks; an entertainment in two acts.” The book was published to coincide with the release of his 1932 motion picture produced by RKO Radio Pictures Inc. who used the shorter title from the book, Way Back Home. Starring opposite Bette Davis, Phillips Lord was billed as “Seth Parker, Preacher.” Because the radio program was unknown in England, the motion picture was released there with the title “Old Greatheart.”