Coleman Rippy took out the permit to build this house in 1952, one of the earliest in McCrorey Heights. For decades, Rippy was one of Charlotte’s strongest voices for social justice. He initially directed the Oaklawn Community Center, a social work effort that aided low income residents in the Double Oaks area of Charlotte. He next created the program in Sociology and Social Work at Johnson C. Smith University. He also served as a national lay leader in the A.M.E. Zion Church. His wife Almeda Rippy had a long career as an educator, a curriculum development administrator in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, and a professor of education at UNC Charlotte.
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Coleman Rippy (1916 – 1996) grew up in Kings Mountain, N.C., about 45 minutes west of Charlotte. He attended Lincoln Academy, a private school near Kings Mountain that attracted African American students from across the South. He graduated with honors from Paine College in Augusta, Georgia, began teaching in public schools in the vicinity, and soon advanced to principal. At age 25 in 1941, the summer before the U.S. officially entered World War II, he left teaching to enlist in the Army. He served for four years, becoming, according to his funeral program, “staff sergeant in the Counterintellegence Corps.”
Home from the war, he and his young wife Almeda moved to Charlotte. He became head of the new Oaklawn Center, one of Charlotte’s first community centers. Funded by wealthy white Myers Park Presbyterian Church, it offered social services and recreational opportunities to residents of the large Double Oaks low-income African American housing development. Double Oaks had been built in the late 1940s, primarily for returning veterans and their families, by white developer C.D. Spangler and was managed by black community leader Fred Alexander. In a later era, housing of this type would be city-owned and community centers would be city-funded; in some ways the Double Oaks development and its Oaklawn Community Center served as pilot projects for those later initiatives.
Coleman Rippy was never simply an administrator, but rather an “engaged scholar” who believed deeply in the interlocking value of research, teaching, and on-the-ground community practice. As he turned the Oaklawn Center into a reality, he also worked toward a masters degree from Columbia University and would later do graduate study at Duke, UNC Chapel Hill, Carnegie Mellon and Harvard. In 1960 he joined Johnson C. Smith University as professor and rose to chair the Social Science Department. “At Smith he created the major in Social Work and was gifted proposal writer and program developer,” noted his funeral program, “bringing more than $3 million in grants to the University” by the time he retired in 1982.
Rippy made sure that JSCU put its expertise to work in the community. He published two careful studies of race and opportunity: “Social and Economic Conditions of the Black Population in Charlotte” and “Housing for the Elderly: A Study of Charlotte-Mecklenburg.” He became the first African American to serve on Charlotte’s Civil Service Commission and also on its Selective Service Commission (draft board). In 1961 Charlotte mayor James Saxon appointed Rippy among the first members of the Mayor’s Friendly Relations Committee. Its casual-sounding name masked a serious intent to get black and white groups talking in the era of the Sit-Ins. And it succeeded, winning national notice for its role in helping Charlotte desegregate faster than most other Southern cities.
At the same time, Dr. Rippy took leadership roles in the A.M.E. Zion Church. In the 1980s he served two terms as national president of the Connectional Lay Council, the religion’s governing body. In Charlotte, he was active in Little Rock A.M.E. Zion Church for 48 years and as chair of its trustees he led fundraising for its new building on McDowell Street, opened in 1981. Said his funeral program: “He was renowned throughout Zion for his quiet leadership, his mastery of parliamentary procedure and of Scripture, his eloquent messages, both written and spoken, and his steadfast faith.”
Almeda Vivian Hunt Rippy (1919-2013) matched her husband in accomplishment. Her funeral program gave an overview:
“Almeda Rippy was born to James Butler Hunt, Sr. and Helena Diggs Hunt in Greenville, South Carolina on May 16, 1919. Her parents worked for decades at the Brandon Mill, a shirt factory nearby. In addition, her father delivered coal and ice, cut hair, raised and sold fruits, vegetables, chickens, and hogs, had a smokehouse, and served for 50 years as superintendent of the Sunday school at Pack’s Chapel and Antioch Baptist Church. From her parents she learned the Christian faith and the virtues of hard work and integrity.
“She graduated from Sterling High School as class valedictorian and went on to Paine College, Augusta, Georgia, where she met her future husband and graduated cum laude in 1940. In later years she did graduate study at Atlanta University (where she often saw the formidable W. E. B. DuBois striding across the quad), Johnson C. Smith and North Carolina Central Universities, the Universities of Oklahoma and North Carolina-Greensboro, and Harvard University, and earned a master’s degree at Columbia University in 1959.
“She had a long, distinguished career as an educator, starting with a primary school in Greenville and continuing after World War II with positions in Charlotte. She began at the Billingsville School in 1948 and progressed to general supervisor for elementary schools, coordinator for elementary mathematics (she wrote and taught a series of six programs on The New Math that ran on WTVI from 1967-1972), and curriculum coordinator for the experimental model school. She completed her service with five years as associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Learning at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Along the way she was a consultant on math, language, reading, and desegregation with school systems in North and South Carolina.”
Early example of the Ranch style, one-story tall with a main low gable roof and a secondary gable at the front of the house facing Patton Avenue. Walls are red brick. Windows are steel units, a modernistic touch that differs from the wooden windows in most of McCrorey Heights. In 1966 the original owners secured a permit for the sizable addition at the rear of the dwelling which included a den, bedroom, patio and two-vehicle carport.
Date issued: February 6, 1952
Owner: Coleman D. P. Rippy
Contractor: W.D. Presson
Other permit info: Build residence
Date issued: April 4, 1966
Owner: CD Rippy and wife
Contractor: Hartman Const.
Estimated cost: $8,000
Other permit info: rear addition: den, bedroom, patio, carport
Building permit files, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.
First appeared in city directory
1953 – C DuPont Rippy & Almeda (listed at 1700 [typo for 1701])
He: Director, Oaklawn Community Center
She: Teacher, Biddleville School
1955 – Rippy listed at 1701.
City directory collection, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.
Rippy, Almeda, funeral program in the History Room, First United Presbyterian Church, Charlotte.
Rippy, Coleman, funeral program in the History Room, First United Presbyterian Church, Charlotte.obituary
“Obituary for Almeda Hunt Rippy,” Grier & Sons Funeral Home. On-line at: http://www.aegriersonsfcc.com/obituaries/Almeda-Hunt-Rippy-33662/#!/Obituary