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William Jonathan Phelps

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William Jonathan Phelps Obituary

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PHELPS, Jonathan WILLIAM JONATHAN PHELPS William Jonathan Phelps, 83, passed away at home on July 21 after a long struggle with emphysema. Jonathan was born in Nashville, TN to Grace Laswell and William John Phelps. He moved to Atlanta with his father in 1937 after his mother and younger brother were killed in a house fire. They lived in Druid Hills and Jon graduated from Boys High in 1946. Jon was a wonderful, sensitive soul who was a pioneer and integral part of the creative community of Atlanta in the 50's, 60's and 70's. He had a beautiful voice which led him to the theater and later radio. He was a talented pianist and ballet dancer as well. Early on Jon had been introduced to the theater in Atlanta by the Moonlight Opera, a predecessor to Theater Under the Stars that is now Chastain Amphitheater. After high school Jon attended The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, graduating in 1950 in the same class as Grace Kelly and Ann Bancroft. As Jon began doing regional summer stock he was drafted into the Korean War. He proudly served as a cryptographer in the 24th Infantry Division Signal Company in Korea and later Japan. He became Crypto-Chief and was awarded the Commendation Medal. After the war he returned to Atlanta. Around 1956 Jon became an announcer for WGKA classical music station in Atlanta. He later became the program manager and worked there until the station was sold in the late 1960's. The station had allowed him to continue his work in the theater by accommodating his acting schedule. During this period he was very active in the regional theater scene in and around Atlanta. Jon was a dear lover of Shakespeare and as a classically trained actor appeared with Theater Atlanta, the Pocket Theater, Theater Under the Stars, Atlanta Municipal Theater, The Academy Theater and finally the Alliance Theater. Jon was the first actor to be put under contract with the Alliance Theater. He played Hamlet with The Southeastern Shakespeare Festival production of Hamlet and received high praise for his performance in Time Magazine. He was also a soloist with The Atlanta Ballet. Jon finished his career as an announcer and later program director for the Atlanta public broadcasting station WABE/FM. He was also the creator, producer and host for Robert Shaw and The Atlanta Symphony concert broadcasts over WABE. Many of these broadcasts were syndicated and heard nationwide. Jon did some voice over work later in his career and was for a time the welcoming voice at Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport. He retired from WABE in 1991. Jon is survived by his sister Katie Phelps of Atlanta, his sister in law Cindy Brazell of Atlanta, cousins and friends. A memorial service will be held at Patterson's Arlington Chapel. Visitation will be at 1:00 on Fri. July 29 with the service following at 2:00. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to WABE/FM, The Atlanta Symphony, or the theater or charity of your choice. Online condolences may be made at
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from July 28 to July 29, 2011
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