By Simon Boes
Photo by Simon Boes (C’18)
James Gipson’s family has lived in Sewanee since before it was christened The University of the South. Graduating with a B.A. in History in 1966, Mr. Gipson has seen Sewanee progress into what it is now. Mr. Gipson worked at the Emerald-Hodgson Hospital for thirteen cents an hour while he was here. His father’s family made their home here in 1814, while his mother’s side, the Garners, have been here since the late 1700s. Since then, the Gipsons have continued to give to the University in many ways. Mr. Gipson’s great-great-grandfather (1804-1896) was very close with Bishop Quintard.
In fact, buried in the Archives building is a letter from Mr. Gipson’s great-great-grandfather to Bishop Quintard requesting his presence for his 92nd birthday. Mr. Gipson’s father worked for the “University Shop,” which is now called Physical Plant Services. He did all the tough gritty work, from unclogging the sewer lines to getting more materials from the rock quarry. It was a different time then, and the saying back then for many of the workers was “working for a song, to sing it for yourself.” The dynamic between workers and the University was filled with tension due to low wages and the aristocratic clergymen’s distaste for the workers.
This is not the case with the Vice-Chancellor, who Mr. Gipson states, “has reached out and been friendly.” In fact, there is a new monument near the tennis courts to honor his great-great-grandfather. It reads, “In honor of Allen Gipson (1804-1896) and his descendants. None gave more according to their means pioneer settler. Land donor, planter, merchant, and loyal friend Veteran of major WM Lauderdale’s 1837-1838. Florida expedition given on the 150th anniversary of the laying of the university cornerstone by his great-great grandson James Elywin Gipson. Class of 1966.” The Gipson’s are a gem to Sewanee, and in James Gipson’s own words, “It would be like moving an ancient oak tree to get me out of here.”