As chairman of the State Development Board from 1959 to 1963, Hipp was credited with major successes in recruiting industry to South Carolina. He was a mentor to several South Carolina business leaders and was singled out for his ability to build consensus from differing views.
Insurance executive. Born in Newberry on March 3, 1911, Hipp was the son of William Frank Hipp and Eunice Jane Halfacre. He attended the Citadel from 1929 to 1931 then transferred to Furman University, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in 1933. On November 10, 1935, Hipp married Mary Matilda Looper. The marriage produced four children. Following Mary’s death in 1962, Hipp married Shirley A. Mattoon on May 11, 1964.
Hipp joined his father’s company, Liberty Life Insurance, in 1933, serving first in the investment area, then in marketing. The Greenville-based company also owned radio stations WIS in Columbia and WCSC in Charleston, which later became television stations. Frank Hipp died suddenly in 1943 and the directors elected Francis to succeed him as president and chairman of the board. An energetic leader, Hipp expanded the company into the Southeast through its own agents, and across the nation through financial institutions. In 1950 the Broadcasting Company of the South was formed as the parent company of Liberty’s broadcasting entities, and in 1953 Liberty Life’s first television station, WIS-TV in Columbia, signed on the air. In 1965, after purchase of WSFA-TV in Montgomery, Alabama, and WTOL-TV in Toledo, Ohio, the Broadcasting Company of the South was renamed Cosmos Broadcasting Corporation to reflect its expanded operations.
In 1967 the Liberty Corporation was formed, with Liberty Life, Cosmos Broadcasting, and Surety Investments merged into it. Headquartered in Greenville, Liberty Corporation was listed on the New York Stock Exchange two years later. In 1979 Hipp relinquished his posts of president and chief executive officer to his son, William Hayne Hipp, but retained the title of board chairman. At his death in 1995 Hipp was the longest-serving chairman of a listed company in the history of the New York Stock Exchange. Liberty had become a diversified holding company with more than $3 billion in assets and revenues of more than $800 million. Liberty Insurance Services, the company’s newest subsidiary, was the largest third-party administrator in the life insurance industry. Cosmos Broadcasting owned and operated eleven network-affiliated television stations, a cable advertising sales subsidiary, and a video production company.
As chairman of the State Development Board from 1959 to 1963, Hipp was credited with major successes in recruiting industry to South Carolina. He was a mentor to several South Carolina business leaders and was singled out for his ability to build consensus from differing views. Hipp and the South Carolina textile industrialist H. William Close helped create the University of South Carolina Business Partnership Foundation, and the College of Business Administration’s twin buildings were named in their honor. Hipp was chairman of the South Carolina Foundation of Independent Colleges, and he became the recipient of honorary degrees from several South Carolina colleges and universities. In 1980 the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce named Hipp South Carolina Businessman of the Year and in 1985 he was inducted into the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame. He died in Greenville on July 24, 1995, and was buried in Springwood Cemetery.
Lunan, Bert, and Robert A. Pierce. Legacy of Leadership. Columbia: South Carolina Business Hall of Fame, 1999.