(1928 – 2021)
Lucille Simmons Whipper was born on June 6, 1928 in Charleston, South Carolina, to Sarah and Joseph Simmons. In 1944 she was a student activist at her high school, Avery Institute. Her graduating class sought to desegregate the College of Charleston. And later, while a student at Talladega College (AL), she became involved in a movement to integrate college student organizations throughout the state. Whipper continued her graduate education in political science at the University of Chicago and later earned a certificate in Guidance and Counseling at South Carolina State University.
In the late 1960s, Whipper served as an organizer and director of Operation Catch-Up, a tutorial program for high school students. Operation Catch-Up was a forerunner of the Upward Bound programs.
Accepting an appointment to serve as Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Human Relations at the College of Charleston in 1972, she became the first African-American administrator and developed the College’s first affirmative action plan. While at the College, she recruited faculty, community members, and alumni of Avery Institute to organize the Avery Institute of Afro-American History and Culture. With the support of members of the Charleston County Delegation and the President of the College, the Avery Research Center at the College of Charleston was established. It is nationally recognized for its archival collections on African-American history.
Having served as vice chairman of the Democratic Party Convention in 1972 and later elected to the Charleston District Twenty School Board, Whipper’s community activities led to more serious political involvement.
In 1985, she became the first Black woman to represent a Charleston County seat in the legislature. She was also the first woman of color ever to be elected to the S.C. General Assembly. While in office between 1986 and 1996, she was a fierce advocate for women and minorities.
Lucille Simmons Whipper was married to the late Rev. Dr. Benjamin J. Whipper, Sr., the mother of six children, and a grandparent. Her son, Seth Whipper, was also a representative.