Gene E. Phillips was born in the industrial town of Piedmont, South Carolina to parents of little means, but great determination. That determination was passed on to Gene and would eventually lead to him being considered by many to be a business pioneer.
His motivation and drive to succeed took him to Clemson University where he graduated with honors in Chemical Engineering. Gene did well enough to earn a four-year, fully-funded, National Science Foundation Scholarship to further his studies in the Ph.D. program at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech). While he worked to complete the Ph.D. program, he began to trade in real estate.