Dr. Lucille Alethia Simmons Whipper passed to her promised reward on Friday, August 27, 2021. Dr. Whipper was the widow of the late Rev. Dr. B. J. Whipper, Sr. and the daughter the late Sarah Marie and Joseph Simmons. She attended private and public schools in Charleston and graduated from Avery Institute in 1944.
After being denied admission to the College of Charleston, she attended Talladega College in Alabama, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and sociology. She later earned a Master of Arts degree in political science from the University of Chicago (1955), and on her return to Charleston, a certification in guidance counseling from South Carolina State University and the University of South Carolina. Dr. Whipper’s first teaching assignment was at Haut Gap School on Johns Island, South Carolina. During her academic career, she served as guidance counselor at Bonds-Wilson and Burke High schools and was elected to serve on the Charleston County District 20 Constituent School Board (1978-1982).
Always seeking to find a better opportunity for students, Dr. Whipper, along with others, organized Operation Catch-Up, a tutorial program for high school students. As director of this countywide program, she was instrumental in the placement of many local high school graduates in colleges and universities throughout the country, including Ivy League colleges. Operation Catch-Up was a forerunner of the Upward Bound Program currently found on many college campuses.
In 1972, Dr. Whipper was hired by the College of Charleston as Director of the Office of Human Relations and Assistant to the President. Under the administration of the late Dr. Theodore S. Stern, she was the College’s first African American administrator to develop its first affirmative action plan. In 1975, she took a leave of absence from the College to direct Project ESAA (Elementary and Secondary School Aid Act) with the Charleston County School District. She returned to the College after two years and retired in 1981.
Out of a need to avert the demise of the Avery Institute structure, Dr. Whipper co-founded the Avery Institute of Afro-American History and Culture (AIAAHC) in 1978. With the concerted effects of civic and political entities, including the Charleston Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, Avery Institute graduates, and the College of Charleston administration and faculty, Dr. Whipper lobbied the South Carolina State House for the representation of African American history in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Their efforts resulted in the establishment of the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture in 1985. This state supported institution, AIAAHC, is under the auspices of the College of Charleston and serves as a historic site, archives, museum, and forum for academic and public programs.
In 1985, Dr. Whipper became the first African American female to be elected to the State of South Carolina House of Representatives from the tri-county area (Charleston, Dorchester, and Berkeley Counties), serving District 109. During her ten-year tenure (1986-1996), she held membership on various committees, including the Labor, Commerce, and Industry Committee; the House Rules Committee; and the Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee. She sponsored legislation to make marital rape a crime and required the monitoring of state agencies’ hiring goals for minorities and females. Her considerable lobbying efforts led to the opening of The Citadel to women. Lucille Whipper believed that her House of Representatives tenure was “a continuation of the civil rights and women’s movements, supporting health care, advocating for more funding for foster care and childcare, affirmative action, education reform and consumer rights.” She was named “Legislator of the Year,” in 1992.
As a devout religious leader, Sister Whipper served as Minister of Music at Saint Matthew Baptist Church for many years and was involved with The Baptist Educational and Missionary Convention of South Carolina (National Baptist Convention, U.S.A.). She also served as Vice President, Chairman of the Social Concerns Committee, and Convention Organist for the Woman’s Baptist Educational and Missionary Convention of SC. As President of the Woman’s Convention, she held a seat on both the Benedict College and Morris College Boards of Trustees. She served as Project Director for the Historical Commission of the Convention, which, in 2006, published Born to Serve: A History of the Woman’s Baptist Educational and Missionary Convention of South Carolina.
Through her work with the Low Country Aid to Africa (LCAA), supporting organizations in Africa that serve as caregivers to children orphaned by the HIV/AIDS virus, more than $136,000 have been donated since 2003 to support organizations in Africa and Haiti. Dr. Whipper also served on the Board of Directors for the International African American Museum (IAAM) currently being built in Charleston.
A Diamond (75 years) member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Lucille Whipper served as President of Gamma Xi Omega Chapter of AKA, Charleston, SC, during the acquisition of the sorority building. Under her leadership, the chapter was the first African American Greek letter organization to make such a purchase in Charleston. She later served a second term as president, becoming the first person to be twice elected for that position. She also attained the platinum status alumni of The Links, Incorporated. Dr. Whipper is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades, including two honorary doctorates from the College of Charleston – one in 1992 and another in 2008. As part of the Multicultural Student Programs (MSPS) at the College of Charleston, the Lucille S. Whipper EXCEL Award (Excellence in Collegiate Education and Leadership) was established in 2008 to recognize students, faculty, and staff for their commitment to creating a campus environment that promotes diversity and excellence. In 2020, during the College’s 250th anniversary celebration, she received the Founders’ Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the College. Other awards included: Doctor of Letters from Morris College (1989), Benedict College, inducted into the South Carolina Black Hall of Fame (1995); and the State of South Carolina’s Order of the Palmetto (1996). In 2006, a portion for a Charleston highway was dedicated and named the “Lucille S. Whipper Interchange” in her honor.
The matriarch of her family, she is survived by her children: Rev. B. J. Whipper, Jr. (Lucille M. Whipper) of Orangeburg, SC; Rosmond Whipper-Black, Jackson Seth Whipper (Carrie Fulse Whipper), Cheryl Whipper Hamilton, D’Jaris Whipper-Lewis (Rev. James B. Lewis, Sr.) all of Charleston, SC; her sister, Millie Stroud Barnwell of Memphis, TN; 19 grandchildren, 23 great-grandchildren, 26 great-great-grandchildren, 7 Great-great-great-grandchildren; special godchildren: Abrea Capers Greene of Charlotte, NC, and Lee Gilliard, of Charleston, SC; and a host of cousins, special friends, and former colleagues. She was preceded in death by two children: Stanford L. Edley and Ogretta Whipper Hawkins; and four grandchildren, Prince Murray Whipper, Jasiri L.K. Whipper, Benjamin James Whipper, III, and Zaya Whipper Smalls.
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