Reasons for Naming
- U.S. Army veteran in the Civil War
- Delegate to the 1868 state constitutional convention, which established rights for African Americans, supported woman’s suffrage
- Strong advocate for universal education during 1868 state constitutional convention
- Trial lawyer; S.C. House of Representatives member during Reconstruction; probate judge in Beaufort
- Resisted Jim Crow and voter disfranchisement during 1895 S.C. constitutional convention; he and other Beaufort representatives refused to ratify.
William James Whipper (1834-1907)
By Jennifer Gunter
William James Whipper was born free in Norristown, Pennsylvania, on January 23, 1834. He died in Beaufort, South Carolina, on July 29, 1907.
Whipper was an African American abolitionist, trial lawyer, municipal judge and state legislator in South Carolina.
In 1864 Whipper joined a Michigan volunteer regiment of the Union Army, the 31st Colored Troops. After the war, he was part of the federal forces that occupied South Carolina. He became a lawyer when he passed the South Carolina bar in 1865. After living in Charleston, he moved to Beaufort to begin his law career. In 1867 he joined Robert Smalls and Richard Howell Gleaves to found the Beaufort Republican Club, the first such organization in South Carolina. That year Whipper was elected to the state constitutional convention of 1868 as a delegate. He would later represent Beaufort County in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1868 to 1872 and from 1875 to 1876. He was an ardent supporter of expanding the vote to women saying, “The systems of legislation have been laid on insecure foundations, and they will never be permanent until women are recognized as the equal of men and … permitted to enjoy the privileges which appertain to the citizen.” He married into a prominent Charleston family in 1868 when he married Frances Ann Rollin, which led to increased influence on his part in the state. His influence waned in the 1870s in South Carolina, most markedly when elected as a judge by the state legislature, the governor refused to sign the commission.
At the 1895 South Carolina Constitutional Convention, Whipper argued against the new restrictive voting policies against African American and poor white men. He said, “I am not here as a suppliant, nor do I put myself and my race in the attitude of a beggar. I am here as a man and a representative, not representing simply the negro, but representing the people.” The speech did not move the all-white legislature who ratified the new constitution that disenfranchised African Americans in South Carolina. Whipper, along with the entire delegation from Beaufort County, refused to sign.
Rowland, Lawrence S. “Whipper, William J.” South Carolina Encyclopedia Online. July 11, 2016.