Bill Shipp (b. 1933)
William Shipp was born on August 16, 1933, in Marietta to Grace and Ralph Shipp. He graduated from Marietta High School and attended Emory University and the University of Georgia (UGA), where he was the managing editor of the student newspaper, the Red and Black. Shipp worked as a summer intern at the Atlanta Constitution in 1953, and in the fall of that year he wrote sharply critical editorials and columns in the Red and Black protesting the decision by Georgia governor Herman Talmadge and the Board of Regents, including member Roy V. Harris, to bar Horace T. Ward's enrollment at UGA.
Shipp served in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1956. He married Renate F. Reinelt of Heidelberg, Germany, and they have two daughters.
After Shipp came home from military service in 1956, he worked full time for the Atlanta Constitution. He went on to cover the civil rights movement, along with the early days of the space program, numerous political campaigns, and breaking stories all over the world during his three decades of writing and editing at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Shipp broke the story that Jimmy Carter planned to run for president. "Nobody believed me," he says. "I had to beg the news editor to put it on page one."
In 1987 he resigned his position as political editor to start Word Merchants, a company that produces Bill Shipp's Georgia, a weekly newsletter. In the 1990s it became the country's first serious political journal on the Internet, making Shipp, an old-school newspaperman, a pioneer "blogger."
Shipp's twice-weekly columns appear in more than sixty newspapers, and he is a panelist on The Georgia Gang, a weekly televised roundtable discussion of current events. He is renowned for bringing context and calm perspective to heated topics.
Despite his prodigious output, Shipp has confounded observers trying to pin down his ideological identity. "When the Democrats are in power, they say I'm a Republican, and when the Republicans are in power, they accuse me of being a Democrat," he said. "I regard myself as an independent, the guy in the striped shirt—the referee. Politics is like a great game of football."
In 1997 Shipp published The Ape-Slayer and Other Snapshots, a collection of more than fifty essays and columns on subjects both personal and political. The title comes from a profile he wrote about a gung-ho, impolitic police officer who shot a rampaging chimpanzee in midtown Atlanta. He also wrote Murder at Broad River Bridge: The Slaying of Lemuel Penn by Members of the Ku Klux Klan (1981), a nonfiction account of the 1964 murder of Lemuel Penn, a black lieutenant colonel in the army reserves who, on his way home to Washington, D.C., was shot to death near the Oglethorpe-Madison county line by Athens members of the Ku Klux Klan.
Shipp's papers are held at the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies at UGA. In 2016 he was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame.