When the Bruce Hornsby Band got one of its first gigs, the opportunity came from a jack-of-all-trades entrepreneur who wanted the band to play in his Sheraton Patriot Hotel’s New Orleans Lounge five nights a week.
That man was Phil Richardson. He died on Christmas Day at the age of 91.
Richardson was a Navy veteran, a land developer, a general contractor and a hotelier in Williamsburg and James City County.
He was born in Toano on Aug. 8, 1927, into a family with five siblings. After graduating from Toano High School, Richardson joined the Navy at the end of World War II to serve as the Admiral’s Yeoman in Tokyo, according to an obituary published in the Daily Press.
When he returned to Virginia, he moved to Richmond and married Mary T. Naylor.
He apprenticed with a construction firm during his time in Richmond, and Richardson returned to Greater Williamsburg to open the Philip Richardson Company. His work with his company led him to deal in land, build hotels and commercial buildings over a career that spanned nearly five decades.
From the Regency Room at the Williamsburg Inn to the former U.S. Post Office in Williamsburg and the United Methodist Church, Richardson helped build Williamsburg.
In James City County, Richardson worked with the Virginia Department of Transportation as Monticello Avenue was reconfigured for the Humelsine Parkway to create more opportunities for land development in New Town, according to James City County Republican Committee Chairman Chris Henderson.
“Phil Richardson was a very significant player in the development of Williamsburg and James City County,” Henderson said. “Phil and I did lots of transactions together, a lot, over the years. Phil was a big landowner. He owned a lot of the land that is now New Town.”
Where the Settler’s Market Walmart now stands, was once owned by Richardson as part of the New Quarter Industrial Park, Henderson said. Richardson lobbied the Virginia Department of Transportation to install two signaled intersections in the area to make it ripe for development.
Richardson vertically integrated his company so he could buy land, build on it and run the business he built, according to Henderson.
Among the many properties he owned and operated was the Sheraton Patriot’s Hotel on Richmond Road, according to musician and real estate developer Bobby Hornsby.
Hornsby, his wife and his brother Bruce played at Richardson’s hotel five nights a week, Hornsby said. Richardson asked the band to open every set with the Sheraton hotel jingle.
“Bruce and I, to this day can, still sing the Sheraton theme song,” Hornsby said. “He brought Frank Sinatra Jr. in for a week-long engagement. It felt good to have a steady gig and make a little money, even though it wasn’t much. We were young, we didn’t care.”
Beyond his entrepreneurial attitudes, Richardson tried to have a positive outlook on everything in life, Hornsby said.
Richardson promoted the College of William and Mary’s Athletics Department and served on advisory boards for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the city of Williamsburg, James City County, the Chamber of Commerce, Williamsburg Community Hospital and Williamsburg United Methodist Church, according to Henderson and the Daily Press.
Further, he promoted politically conservative causes as a member of the James City County Republican Committee, Henderson said.
“Phil was a staunch conservative, he really supported Republicans and Republican causes,” Henderson said. Richardson is the only person in the history of the Republican committee to win a lifetime achievement award.
In his honor, Henderson said the organization was looking to fund a scholarship in his name to benefit Williamsburg-James City County School Division students.
Surviving Richardson are his son Whit Richardson and daughter Sally Richardson Poroush of St. Mateo, Calif. He is predeceased by his parents, five siblings, and wives Mary T. Richardson and Patricia Amos Richardson, according to the Daily Press.
In lieu of flowers, the family asked for contributions to be made to the Williamsburg United Methodist Church or the College of William and Mary Tribe Club.
Roberts can be reached at 757-604-1329, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SPRobertsJr.