Mary Alice Shipp, civil rights pioneer and political activist dead at 83

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- Mary Alice Shipp, one of Worth County's most well-known civil rights pioneers and political activists, died Saturday, family members say. She was 83.

A former school teacher at Worth County's black segregated high school, Oak Hill, Shipp became active in the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

By 1978, Shipp was a spokesperson for the Worth County NAACP. One year later, Shipp's husband, Curtis, became the county's first black elected official, according to an interview she had with The Albany Herald in 2008.

In 1982, Mary Shipp made her own foray into politics by running for mayor.

"I got so upset with the way they were doing," she told a reporter in the 2008 interview. "I thought I needed to be on that council so we'd have a voice."

While she wouldn't win that seat, two years later she ran for and won a seat on the council. She would hold that seat until 1992, when she resigned to run for mayor again.

That same year, Gov. Zell Miller appointed her to serve on the state Board of Corrections, a post she held for six years.

In 2008, Shipp donated artifacts from her professional and political career to the Albany Civil Rights Institute, where many still sit on display.

Lee Formwalt, the executive director of the Albany Civil Rights Institute, said that Shipp worked to change the rural political landscape from the inside out and was one who never was content watching from sidelines.

"Mrs. Shipp was a leader who devoted her life to pursuing equality and opportunity for African Americans in rural Georgia," Formwalt said. "Right up until the end, people looked to her for guidance and insight."

Charlie Crapps, who is the current president of the ACRI board, said that Shipp was a member of a special class of strong, civil rights-era women who fought tirelessly against Jim Crow policies throughout Southwest Georgia.

"She was one of several women who became politically active to help change the system," Crapps said. "Women like her and Mary Young-Cummings and Lela Walker changed the face of politics in Southwest Georgia and helped provide opportunities for others to get involved."

Funeral arrangements for Shipp haven't yet been announced.