SC Rep. Lucille Simmons Whipper credits her education at historically black institutions for instilling in her the will to make a difference wherever she found herself. 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. Mrs. 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 sixties Mrs. Whipper and others organized Operation Catch-Up, a tutorial program for high school students that was funded from a federal grant from President Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” She served as director of this countywide program placing many high school graduates in colleges and universities throughout the country. Operation Catch-Up was a forerunner of the Upward Bound programs found today on college campuses.
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 (founded in 1865) 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, Mrs. Whipper’s community activities led to more serious political involvement. In 1985 she became the first African-American female to serve as an elected state official from the Tri-County area. Mrs. Whipper served with distinction as a member of numerous committees and was appointed to many commissions on the local and state level serving for years on the State Human Affairs Commission. She cosponsored legislation dealing with medical, family, educational, health, and social issues in addition to sponsoring two important pieces of legislation — one making marital rape a crime and the other requiring the monitoring of state agencies in reaching their hiring goals for minorities and females.
As the wife of a distinguished pastor and religious leader, the late Rev. Dr. Benjamin J. Whipper, Sr., she was involved in various aspects of church life. Presently, she serves her denomination as faculty member of the National Congress of Christian Education, and Immediate Past President of the Woman’s Educational and Missionary Convention of South Carolina. She is a former member of the Morris College Board of Trustees and the Benedict College Board of Trustees.
Mrs. Whipper is the recipient of numerous awards including Honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters from Morris College, (1989), and the University of Charleston (1992); Legislator of the Year 1992, Mental Health and Human Services; SC Legislator for 1992, SC Chapter of National Association of Social Workers. She was inducted into the SC Black Hall of Fame in 1995 and awarded the order of the Palmetto in 1996. More recently, Mrs. Whipper was listed as one of “Charleston’s One Hundred Most Influential since 1670” in the November 2007 issue of Charleston Magazine. In December 2008, she received the Doctorate of Humane Letters from the College of Charleston.