Las Vegas Sun

April 20, 2014

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JAMES SHIPP: 1936-2007

When James Shipp came to Las Vegas in 1967 to teach during the city's early days of public school desegregation, the prejudice he witnessed was reminiscent of what he had experienced as a black person growing up in the Deep South.

A rule at the time was that black children could not take textbooks home because school officials thought they were irresponsible and would lose them.

Shipp insisted his students break that rule, take their school books home and read them for a couple of hours each night.

"Their grades went up," said the Rev. Marion Bennett, a longtime Las Vegas civil rights activist . "James was a man who gave light everywhere he went."

James R. Shipp, a teacher and principal in the Clark County School District for 31 years, died Friday of a heart attack, his family said. He was 71.

Services will be at 1 p.m. Thursday at True Love Baptist Church, 1941 H St . Visitation will be 1 to 7 p.m. today at Palm Mortuary-Downtown.

Bennett, who will officiate at the services, said he leaned heavily on Shipp to teach at one of the West Las Vegas sixth grade centers, where white children at the time were bus ed to comply with federal desegregation orders.

"In Atlanta, I observed his compassion, how well he worked with people and his dedication to improving the human condition," Bennett said.

Shipp took his students on field trips, including train rides to Moapa. When Boy Scout troops were organized in the old Gerson Park public housing project to curb gang activity, Shipp was among the strongest supporters, Bennett said.

Shipp's daughter, LeCelia Shipp-Oakes, who twice was a student at schools where her father was principal, said her father paid a price for his activism.

"He told me how difficult it was to overcome prejudices in the school system," Shipp-Oakes said. "He was highly qualified to be a principal, but early on he said he was passed over for administrative positions."

In 1971 Shipp was appointed vice principal at Madison Elementary School and a year later was promoted to principal.

Born April 23, 1936, in Conyers, Ga., Shipp served in the Army, then returned to Georgia, where, in 1958, he earned bachelor's degrees in sociology and history from Morris Brown College.

Shipp earned his master's in sociology in 1963 and worked for three years in the Atlanta school system before coming to Las Vegas. He was hired on Aug. 28, 1967, to work at Kit Carson Sixth Grade Center.

Shipp became principal at Laura Dearing Elementary School in 1981 and served as principal of Lincoln Elementary from 1993 until he retired on Jan. 23, 1998, according to the School District.

In addition to his daughter, Shipp is survived by his wife, Donna Shipp, and a granddaughter, Ladonna.

His family said donations may be made in Shipp's memory to the Alzheimer's Foundation.

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