Remembering Don Phipps – April 18, 1927 – Jan. 16, 2021

January 20, 2021

Land Line Staff


Don Phipps (left) and Jim Johnston
Don Phipps (left) and Jim Johnston. Don served on OOIDA’s Board of Directors until he semi-retired in the late ’90s. He was appointed Director Emeritus of the Association in 1994.


OOIDA Director Emeritus Donald Phipps of Madrid, Iowa, died Jan. 16. He was 93. He was preceded in death by his wife, Marlys, who passed away Aug. 10, 2019. Their accomplishments as trucking activists will be remembered as a significant part of the Association’s history.

The early years of OOIDA were times of great effort and sacrifice by people who pushed themselves outside of their personal comfort zones and diligently scrapped for each small victory. It’s because of people like Don and Marlys and their work for OOIDA that truckers don’t have to deal with dozens of license plates all over their truck. Uniform licensing and permitting was one of their many causes.

OOIDA President Todd Spencer also notes that they were instrumental in focusing attention on the problems of lumpers that ended with the lumping statute that we still have today.

“The efforts they made helped lay the foundation for following generations of small-business truckers,” says Spencer.

Don’s life was not unlike many of the other early board members. He bought his first truck at 16, served in the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II, and went back to trucking after the war. He married Marlys Westgate in 1958. Don eventually expanded his area of operation and size of his equipment, got his own authority, permits and customers, and continued trucking with Marlys as his co-driver.

Don and Marlys joined OOIDA in 1980. He was elected to the Board of Directors in 1982. Like many of the early board members, Don donated time and effort during the days OOIDA struggled for its existence. He attended board meetings wherever they could get table and chairs together (many times at his own expense), helped establish the credibility of the organization, flew to Washington, D.C., when needed, and represented OOIDA in many other roles.

In 1986, Phipps was a regulated carrier doing business as Refrigerated Transport of Ames, Iowa. Don and OOIDA sued Kentucky over an unlawfully pricey ICC authority renewal fee. The court agreed the fee was too high, but the judge’s ruling did not extend to all owner-operators or ICC exempt carriers. Don later told Land Line that the case wasn’t momentous but was the first of many Association’s state lawsuit wins.

“We (OOIDA) did a lot with a little,” Marlys said in a 2018 interview with Land Line.

Don served on OOIDA’s Board of Directors until he semi-retired in the late ’90s. He was appointed director emeritus of the Association in 1994.

During his trucking career, Don liked to “run hard” and then take time each year to travel for the pure enjoyment of it. After retiring, he continued traveling around the country with Marlys, sightseeing and fishing.

Don was a member of the Heartland Baptist Church of Ames, Iowa, and a member of the American Legion Post 37. He is survived by his son, Harold (Dawn) of Polk City, Iowa; daughter Janine (Jon) Seibert of Fort Myers, Fla., and many grandchildren, nephews and nieces.

Services are planned for Jan. 23; arrangements by Schroeder-Reimers Memorial Chapel in Boone, Iowa. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to Alzheimer’s research at Indiana State University of Hereditary Genomics, 410 W. 10th St., Fourth Floor, Indianapolis, Ind. 46202. LL