Born July 24, 1923 in Blue Island, Illinois, Rack graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor's degree in music, thereafter teaching music before becoming a salesman, and later learning the printing trade. Rack managed newspapers, owned a printing business and later became a trade journal publisher.
Enlisting in the Army Engineers during WWII, he helped build morale by leading an unauthorized Army Regiment Band. Being an accomplished and talented musician, following the war he toured for ten years with "Phil Rack and His Orchestra."
Rack had one child, Andre Philip Rack, with his first wife, Mariette, from Liege, Belgium, before Mariette passed away from complications of a rheumatic heart.
He later married Mary Ellen Collins and the pair raised six children, Andre, Sue, Phil, Jr., Frank, Mary and Jeff. Mary Ellen died from lengthy illnesses in 1990.
On January 2, 1993, Rack married Carolyn Johns Mullins in Nashville. Together, they soon became a voice of authority within the collision industry. The couple met at a trade show in 1991. For a time thereafter, they corresponded professionally, as Carolyn's company advertised in Rack's paper. But on Rack's birthday in 1992, they met again and, as Carolyn describes it, were engaged fifteen minutes later. When their children showed surprise at the quick engagement, Phil and Carolyn explained that they didn't know how to date so they just skipped that step.
A husband and wife team
From the day they married, Carolyn became a part of everything Rack tackled, as they worked as a team in devoting their publication entirely as a forum from which the independent collision and glass industries could state their case.
Phil and Carolyn published their automotive journal, Parts and Equipment, later changed to Beyond Parts and Equipment when the emphasis moved from being an automotive mechanical trade journal to being an automotive collision repairers and automotive glass installers' trade journal.
But their service to the collision and glass industries didn't stop there; Phil and Carolyn became personally acquainted with their subscribers, attended their trade shows and conventions, and developed much deeper relationships with them than merely professional relationships.
Though they never owned a collision shop, through their magazine Phil and Carolyn became willingly caught up in the plight of independent shop owners trying to regain control over their industry. Rack provided his publication as a platform for producing accurate information to the trades. With Carolyn's professional writing and teaching skills, and drive to equal his, Beyond Parts and Equipment was devoted to pursuing the cause of independence in shaking off insurers' control of shops; every edition included the slogan "Restoring Control to Repair Professionals Everywhere."
In 2002, Phil and Carolyn were honored with the Carl W. Jolliff Leadership Award "For outstanding leadership in the glass industry," which recognizes leadership from people outside the glass industry. They realized that the two industries had common problems in dealing with insurers, and worked to "cross-pollinate" the two through information sharing.
In May 2004, Phil and Carolyn were awarded an engraved ship's clock by theCCRE at the show floor at the Independent Glass Association's (IGA) yearly conference and trade show held in Columbus. The award honored their having been "…very instrumental in the formation of the CCRE, and having dedicated their lives to the collision repair industry and the Independent Glass industry."
For their efforts in the collision industry, Phil and Carolyn were voted into theCCRE's Hall of Fame, as the association's first inductees.
Phil Rack may now be physically absent from us, but his love and laughter and determined ability will encourage us forever.
A special thanks goes to CCRE member Ann Spink for spending a week with Carolyn Rack after Phil's passing and, together with Carolyn, compiling much of the content of this article. The article was edited by Dick Strom and theCCRE volunteer staff.