Rudolph Washington Phillips, one of the best-known hobos to ride the rails during the Great Depression, caught ”the westbound to heaven” on Jan. 9. He was 91.
Phillips was only 14 years old in 1925 when he left his home in East Prairie, Mo., and started traveling around the country. Over the next seven years, Rambling Rudy visited 48 states, and spent time in 27 different jails.
When he finally disembarked in 1932, Phillips opened Rudy’s BBQ restaurant and Rudy’s Hobo Museum in Shawneetown, Ill. The following year, the chamber of commerce in Britt, Iowa, began sponsoring the National Hobo Convention, an annual event that was launched in 1900 by a group of hobos from Chicago who called themselves Tourists Union No. 63. Phillips was heralded as the King of the Hobos at the convention in 1986, and crowned with an empty coffee can.
Rambling Rudy Phillips was married seven times, experiences he once described as “shipwrecks on the Sea of Matrimony.” His last marriage to his wife Hazel, endured for more than 30 years, until her recent death.