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Yale 62

Philip Sultan Shailer

Phil Shailer was known for many things. He was the only person ever elected as both Public Defender and State Attorney in Broward County, Florida. To his colleagues in the Florida bar, he was a brilliant lawyer with a strong moral compass. To retired Judge Patricia Cocalis, he was the man who jump-started her trail-blazing career by making her the first woman appointed as an assistant state attorney in Broward County. To his children, he was the remarkable Dad who knew how to give each of them just what they needed.

One of Phil’s most famous cases came when Florida’s governor appointed him to prosecute an accused serial killer, George Schaefer, in 1973. Phil believed the defendant was guilty of murdering nine young women and was able to convict him for two. When Schaefer was murdered in his prison cell 20 years later, Phil noted that he no longer believed in the death penalty, but didn’t shed a tear over the death.

After his term as State Attorney ended, Shailer served on the Inspector General Selection and Oversight Committee in the State Attorney’s Office, where he oversaw the agency’s watchdog office and worked as a senior vice-president for Alamo Rent-A-Car.
Phil ran as a Republican when he was elected to office, but in 2018 he published an op-ed in the South Florida Sun Sentinel titled “Why I left the Republican Party.” He wrote that he felt abandoned by “a deceitful and mean-spirited president; a Congress that perpetuates his brand of evil and cares little for the common folk; and a governor and state legislature that are of the same ilk.”

Phil was born in Waterbury, CT, and prepared at Choate before coming to Yale with the Class of ’59. He left to serve for two years in the Marine Corps, which took him to Japan and Okinawa, before joining ’62 at the beginning of our sophomore year. He played on the hockey and basketball teams in Jonathan Edwards, and was elected president of Chi Psi. After graduation, he obtained his law degree at Duke.

It was during his first year of law school that Phil met his wife Midge. He and some friends were headed to Yale for a football game, and Midge hitched a ride in order to visit her then-fiancé. That ride changed both their lives.

After Steve finished law school, he and Midge settled in Broward County, Florida, where his parents were snowbirds, because they both liked the area. While working as a nurse, Midge began to see abused children who needed help they weren’t getting. She founded Kids in Distress, which grew into an organization serving 20,000 children. Midge developed a reputation as a passionate and tireless advocate for children.

Phil was predeceased by Midge and his son Steven. He was survived by two daughters and three granddaughters.

– Lee G. Bolman