Whipper, Lucille Simmons
Educator, legislator. Whipper was born in Charleston on June 6, 1928, the daughter of Joseph Simmons and Sarah Marie Washington. When her mother later married Edward A. Stroud, she spent her childhood on the east side of Charleston and in the Liberty Hill section of North Charleston. Her first exposure to the costs of social activism came when her stepfather attempted to organize a labor union and lost his job.
Whipper graduated from Avery Normal Institute in 1944. She then went to Talladega College in Alabama, where she earned a degree in sociology and economics and married her first husband. After his untimely death, she returned home with an infant son and taught social studies in the public schools. She was awarded a scholarship to the University of Chicago and in 1955 graduated with a master’s degree in political science.
While encouraged by her professors to remain in Chicago, Whipper again chose Charleston and became the director of guidance services at two prominent black high schools, Burke High and Bonds-Wilson. In 1957 she married the Reverend Benjamin Whipper, a widower with five children. The family grew when the Whippers had a daughter, raising the number of children in their household to seven.
In 1972 Whipper became the director of human relations at the College of Charleston, serving for four years before being enticed back to the public schools. She directed a multi-million-dollar federal project, the Elementary and Secondary School Act, which set up model school programs across Charleston County. Finding the position to be more paperwork than action, she returned to the College of Charleston, officially retiring in 1981. Her respite was not long-lived as she devoted her efforts to reclaiming and preserving the building that had housed Avery Normal Institute for more than one hundred years. Fearing that it would be sold to developers, she worked with officials at the College of Charleston to secure a National Endowment for the Humanities grant. Ultimately her work led to Avery becoming a research center and archive focusing on the history and culture of lowcountry African Americans.
During this same time period (1978–1982), Whipper was also a member of the school board for District 20 of Charleston County Schools, her first real experience with politics. She sought greater public service when a state House of Representatives seat for Mount Pleasant became open in autumn 1986. After a family conference, the Whippers decided to move into an upscale suburb in Mount Pleasant. This action gave her legal residence in the district, a requirement before her name could be placed on the ballot. Winning the election, she became Charleston’s first black woman legislator and represented House District 109 until 1996. She was inducted into the South Carolina Black Hall of Fame in 1995.
Brazell, Dawn. “Lucille Whipper: House Representative with a Cause.” Charleston Post and Courier, April 20, 1991, pp. C1, C3.
Simms, Lois. Profiles of African American Females in the Low Country of South Carolina. Charleston, S.C.: Avery Research Center, 1992.