Chope - Silver Sage PortraitElliot Waite “Chope” Phillips, whose love of Philmont as a boy inspired his father, Waite, to donate it to the Boy Scouts of America, passed away April 26 at his home in Amarillo. He was 97.

A lifelong friend and benefactor of Philmont, Chope fell in love with the mountains and the cowboy way of life on multiple family trips to the ranch as a youth. After college and service in the U.S. Army during World War II, he spurned the family oil business, married his sweetheart, Virginia, bought his own ranch in New Mexico, and spent the next sixty years living his childhood dream of being a cowboy and rancher.

Throughout that time, he and Virginia remained involved with and connected to Philmont. Chope served on the Philmont Ranch Committee for years and frequently visited, as his father had, to see firsthand how the Philmont experience affected countless young people, just as it had with him. In 2005, he and Virginia were recognized for their decades of service to Philmont as the first recipients of the PSA’s Silver Sage Award.

Later that same year, Chope received another distinguished honor when he was named a recipient of the Foy Proctor Memorial Cowman’s Award of Honor. The program’s director noted at the time that those honored “best exemplify the hard work, honesty, integrity and spirit of a true cowman.”

Our late PSA board member Bill McKown always delighted in telling the story of the time years ago when he approached Chope at a Ranch Committee meeting and asked him to support the PSA by buying a life membership in the organization. With characteristic dry wit, Chope replied, “I’d love to, but at my age, I’m not sure a life membership is a good investment.” And with equally characteristic support for all things Philmont, he bought one anyway.

For more details on Chope’s life, see, or view his obituary in the Amarillo Globe-News at

— Mark Stinnett