The reading room of the Special Collections Library is named for Francis M. Hipp, a Greenville executive and civic leader who used his vast business experience to strengthen and expand his family’s life insurance, broadcasting and investment companies, as well as to promote economic development and civic opportunities throughout South Carolina.
Francis Hipp (1911-1995) was a native of Newberry, South Carolina and graduated from Greenville High School and Furman University. His father, W. Frank Hipp, founded Liberty Life Insurance Company in the 1920s and built it into one of the largest weekly premium insurance companies in the country. He also began acquiring radio stations to advertise Liberty Life’s insurance products.
Francis Hipp started working for Liberty Life in 1933, first in the investment area then in marketing. After W. Frank Hipp died in 1943, Francis was asked to succeed his father as president of Liberty Life.
Under Francis Hipp’s leadership, The Broadcasting Company of the South was formed as the parent company of Liberty’s radio broadcasting interests in 1950. Three years later, the company’s first television station, WIS-TV in Columbia, South Carolina signed on the air. The Broadcasting Company of the South was renamed Cosmos Broadcasting in 1965 to reflect a broader geographic base after adding additional television stations in several states.
Liberty Life Insurance, Cosmos Broadcasting, and Surety Investment Company merged in 1967 to form The Liberty Corporation, one of the first South Carolina companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Hipp was president and chief executive officer of The Liberty Corporation until 1979, when he became chairman of the board. By the time of Hipp’s death in 1995, he was the longest-serving chairman of any listed company in the history of the New York Stock Exchange and The Liberty Corporation had become a diversified holding company with more than $3 billion in assets and revenues of over $600 million. Cosmos Broadcasting had grown to include eleven network-affiliated television stations, a cable advertising sales subsidiary, and a video production company.
Francis Hipp also served as vice-president and director of Cosmos Broadcasting Corporation, Carolina Pipeline Company, and director emeritus of the South Carolina National and SCANA Corporations. As chairman of a revitalized State Development Board from 1959 to 1963, he helped recruit a record number of industries to South Carolina during a time of vast economic growth. He also served on numerous boards of educational, medical, civic, professional and financial institutions including the South Carolina Foundation of Independent Colleges, Greenville General Hospital and the Greenville YMCA.
Francis Hipp was named 1980 Businessman of the Year by the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. He was awarded an honorary degree by Clemson University that same year. In 1985, Hipp was inducted into the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame and also received the South Carolina Order of the Palmetto.
The Francis M. Hipp Papers are part of The Liberty Corporation Archives (Mss 160) in the Special Collections Library.