For several years in the 1990s, the Kansas Legislature had two “Phil Klines.”
There was “one L” Phil Kline, a state lawmaker from Overland Park also known as “Big Phil” who died on Wednesday at 92.
And there was “two L” Phill Kline, the state lawmaker who went on to become a controversial Kansas attorney general and Johnson County district attorney.
A one-time Kentucky basketball player under the legendary Adolph Rupp, “Big Phil” Kline was a gentle giant who rose to become chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee during his 19-year stint in the chamber.
He was a moderate Republican in an era when the state began its shift from traditional, moderate Republicanism to a new brand of conservatism.
Phil Kline often told the story about being on a Caribbean cruise when he got a call from conservative House Speaker Tim Shallenberger offering him the position of appropriations chairman. That Shallenburger offered it to moderate did not sit well with many of the speaker’s allies.
A celebration of Phil’s life will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at Village Presbyterian Church, 6641 Mission Road.
“Big Phil” was a longtime public servant in Overland Park, Johnson County and the State of Kansas. He was an advocate for public education, caring for deaf and blind children and those mainstream (moderate) values he held for more than 35 years as an elected official (Republican precinct committeeman, school board member and State Representative in the Kansas Legislature).
As a founding partner in the firm of Shafer and Kline, Civil Engineers, (Today, Shafer, Kline and Warren.) Phil was responsible for the design and survey work on many of the roads (cloverleaf intersections were a specialty), highways, sub-divisions and major commercial
developments in the greater Kansas City area.
Phil was predeceased by his parents, Kearney and Ruth (Bevins) Kline, Brother Jack, Sister Doris Thomas, and first wife, Jean.
He is survived by his wife of 32 years, Ruthie, Children: Phil Jr. (Madelyn), Jack (Nancy) and Julie (John) Postlewait, six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Following his retirement, Phil (“Large”) continued his successful quest to visit all 50 State Capitols as well as traveling to all seven continents. Many knew of his fervent support of college basketball, primarily the Louisville Cardinals and Kentucky Wildcats, but only his
close friends knew he was a member of Adolph Rupp’s 1940 freshman team at the University of Kentucky. What he lacked in speed, he made up with vocal support each new season.
Then Coach Rick Pitino honored Phil with a UK team jersey on his 75th birthday.