Carroll couple seeks to improve life for others

January 02, 1994|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

When Dianne Wiebe needed friendship, Bob and Phyllis Scott gave her family. When she needed guidance, they gave her direction.

So when Mrs. Scott needed reassurance that she and her husband, both in their 70s, had made a difference to their community, Ms. Wiebe gave her an answer.

"I have thought about how lives like yours might be measured; that there are no little metal devices with wires and gauges that Bob could design to accurately register your contributions to this world," Ms. Wiebe wrote to the Westminster couple.

"You have given us the consummate example of a life that is lived with integrity and dedication to what is most worthy in our society."

That view would be shared by many who have benefited from the Scotts' unselfish deeds.

"We just live doing what we think is right the best way we know how," Mrs. Scott said.

For them, that means protesting against injustice, diving into political debate, creating an outlet for creative minds and supporting what they believe improves the quality of life for others.

From the moment Phyllis Barrett Scott stood on Main Street in Westminster and screamed, "I'm finished," to proclaim her frustration with society in 1945, it seemed evident that the vibrant young woman and her equally committed husband -- a computer maintenance officer fresh from European service in World War II -- didn't care what others thought of them.

In 1954, they built a window-walled home on stilts -- with sliding panels to close out the sun when they wanted less light -- in a heavily wooded area west of Westminster, despite the whispered disapproval of a few staid Carroll County residents.

Mr. Scott designed and installed an automatic watering system for the plants hanging from the rafters below a steepled skylight, hooked the device for the plants on their deck, planted flower and vegetable gardens, and began to "simply live."

Mr. Scott was president of Beacon Steel Products Co. Inc., a manufacturer of chicken-care equipment on Railroad Avenue, started by his father in 1932. Mrs. Scott worked as a social worker and housewife. But they made time to get involved in the community.

They are founding members of the Carroll County Arts Council and patrons for artists like Ms. Wiebe, a writer and former Arts Council director.

"They are supportive and nurturing of talented people, and everyone loves them for it," Ms. Wiebe said. "Phyllis doesn't just invite people over, she holds court because so many people are in awe of her energy."

Robert Kersey, president and a founding member of the council, said the couple's significant contributions include Mrs. Scott's tireless committee work and Mr. Scott's installation of the council's computer data bases.

"They've always been supportive financially, but that's not all," Mr. Kersey said. "I think that they were primary movers to getting us where we are today."

Equal rights

The couple recounted their part in forming the Human Relations Committee of Carroll County, the county's first equal rights organization, as if working toward equality for African Americans was the most natural thing to do in an era when laws treated blacks as second-class citizens.

"There was no movie theater or restaurant [in the county] that would accept blacks," Mr. Scott said of the early '60s. "Whites would buy tickets at the movie theater, and we'd march in with some of our Negro friends.

"We got by the ticket taker, who didn't know what to do about us," said Mr. Scott, laughing. "And then they called the police to escort us out, but it made a point."

The Scotts participated in marches with Martin Luther King Jr., whom Mrs. Scott met when he spoke in a Baltimore church.

"We were right there when Dr. King made his 'I have a dream' speech," said Mr. Scott, as his wife nodded, murmuring softly, "Yes, yes."

Mrs. Scott's devotion to politics and her outspoken manner made her an activist. Mr. Scott shared his wife's opinions, but not her high profile.

"He gave me a lot of support," Mrs. Scott recalls. "Bob is a very quiet man, but he gave me the support."

"You just swept me off my feet," Mr. Scott told her quietly, placing a hand on her shoulder.

The Scotts said society's enthusiasm for change has waned in the past 30 years, but they continue to work for a better quality of life, which they said begins with electing competent officials.

Their involvement with elections on all levels is evident in each button and souvenir Mrs. Scott has collected from elections over the past 50 years.

Mr. Scott's work with the local Democratic club and Democratic Central Committee has filled his computer with more voter records than can be found at the local registration office. He keeps information on file well after the county has purged it.

"I guess if there's one thing I always used to tell people, it was that when I grow up I want to be like the Scotts," said Corynne Courpas, president of the Carroll County Democratic Club.

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