Major Phillip May
Major Phillip May
  • November 1, 1948 - October 8, 2017
  • Atlanta, Georgia

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Major Phillip May, age 68, of Atlanta, Georgia, died on October 8, 2017 at Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta. A memorial service will be held on November 4, 2017, at 2 p.m. at H.M. Patterson & Sons, Oglethorpe Hill Chapel, 4550 Peachtree Road NE, Brookhaven GA 30319, with Father Paul McCabe officiating. Visitation and reception to follow. He is survived by his brother, Stephen William “Billy” May III (Terri) of Sawyerville, Alabama, and three nieces, Stephany Elliott LaPina (Michael), Christina Brooks Mitchell, Emily Elisabeth Vansant (Scott), their children, and many other relatives and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents, Stephen William May, Jr. and Mary Lou Watson May. Phil May was born on November 1, 1948 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He grew up on his family’s farm west of Sawyerville. He was educated in the Greensboro school system and the University of Montevallo. He received his commission as an officer in the U.S. Air Force in 1971 and served as a member of the Alabama National Guard from 1971 to 1983. Although he became involved in politics and government early on, most of his professional career involved emergency management at both state and national levels. In 1981 he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as Administrator, Region IV, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), responsible for the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. He also served as regional administrator under presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. Phil May joined FEMA with the desire to serve others. Following Hurricane Frederick’s strike on Alabama in 1979, he served as Congressman Jack Edwards’ liaison to the FEMA office. Two years later, in 1981, he was appointed as the FEMA Region IV Director, and served in that position until 1994. He assumed his second tour as Region IV director on October 15, 2006, until he retired in July 2014. Phil oversaw numerous disasters during his tenure at FEMA, including leading the response and recovery to Hurricanes Hugo and Andrew, the Kentucky ice storm (2009), Tennessee Floods (2010), and the tornadoes that occurred in Georgia (2008), Mississippi (2010), and Alabama (2011). Phil was a supportive, caring, and compassionate leader, and a kind and gentle man who always found the good in people. He became a friend and mentor to many of the FEMA Region IV staff and others who worked closely with him. Throughout his time with FEMA, Phil enthusiastically guided the development of both people and programs. Among many others, his mark was left on FEMA when he established the first Regional Hurricane Program to further the development of regional hurricane evacuation studies. This initiative led to closer ties between emergency managers and weather forecasters, and ultimately the establishment of the Hurricane Liaison Team – a mainstay of current operations. Phil had an accomplished and distinguished career in emergency management, and earned both the Distinguished Meritorious Service Award and the Distinguished Civil Service Medal. The Department of Health and Human Services also presented him with its first national Disaster Medical Services Award. Persons wishing to remember Major Phillip May are encouraged to do so by donations to organizations involved with disaster relief or to other charities.