From the cotton fields of Calhoun County, SC to the cabinet of the Governor of the State of South Carolina, Milton Kimpson traveled a path of great achievement and service to his state, family, community, and fellow man. Kimpson was born on October 1, 1930, in St. Matthews, South Carolina, the second of four children born to Melton Kimpson and Ruth Wright Kimpson. He departed this life on Saturday, January 30, 2021.
One of his three sons, state Senator Marlon Kimpson, announced his death on Twitter.
“Dad has transitioned from this earthly place. Blessed to have had an example of what it means to be the patriarch of a family for 90 years. In his early years, he picked cotton on the Gressette farm. In his later years, he witnessed me sworn-in the Gressette Senate Building,” Senator Kimpson said.
As sharecroppers, Kimpson’s parents struggled to send all of their children to college. Kimpson and his siblings all made it with prayer, perseverance, hard work, and sometimes exercising their musical talents singing as the Kimpson Quartet in churches throughout Calhoun and Orangeburg Counties.
After graduating from Benedict College in Columbia, SC, with a B.S. degree in Mathematics and a stint in the United States Army, during the Korean War, Kimpson began his teaching career at Booker T. Washington High School in Columbia as a mathematics teacher. Kimpson later distinguished himself as a principal at two of the city’s elementary schools before being selected as a State Supervisor of Elementary Education as the South Carolina State Department of Education. He later was appointed the first Executive Director for the Community Relations Council of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce.
In 1979, Kimpson was appointed as the Executive Director of Health, Education and Human Services by the Honorable Richard W. Riley, Governor of the State of South Carolina, where he was responsible for the supervision and administration of the state’s efforts in education, health, community services, employment and training. It was during his tenure in this position that Kimpson provided leadership and assistance to the Governor in the passage of the landmark Education Improvement Act of 1984. Governor Riley thereafter appointed Kimpson to the South Carolina Worker’s Compensation Commission, where he later served as Chairman.
After serving as an Associate Commissioner to the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, Kimpson retired from state government in 1994 as the Deputy Commissioner for Program Services at the South Carolina Department of Corrections.
In addition to his undergraduate degree, Kimpson earned a Master’s Degree from the University of Wisconsin and furthered his education at the University of Georgia, Syracuse University and the University of Miami. Kimpson also received honorary doctorate degrees from Benedict College and Wofford College. The Milton Kimpson Center for Graduate Studies and Continuing Education Building on Benedict’s campus is named in his honor.
““For over 68 years, Dr. Milton Kimpson was a passionate and loyal supporter of Benedict College. He is recognized as one of our most distinguished graduates,” said Benedict College president Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis. “His work as an educator, community leader and administrator will forever remain highly respected across the state of South Carolina.”
Among his many honors and awards, Kimpson has received the Order of the Palmetto from the Governor of South Carolina; Colonel of the Staff award from the Governor of Mississippi; Arkansas Traveler Award from the Governor of Arkansas; Man of the Year Award, NAACP, Manning Branch; Distinguished Service Award, South Carolina State College; Public Servant of the Year Award, South Carolina Association of Minorities for Public Administration, and the Friend of Education Award, South Carolina Education Association. He was recognized in the 2008 African American History Calendar. In 2017, by Joint Resolution of the SC General Assembly, an Interchange at the junction of Highways 126 and 26 was named in Kimpson’s honor.
Kimpson was an active member of the Saint John Baptist Church where he was Chairman Emeritus of the Official Board of Deacons, a member of the Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, and Phi Delta Kappa Fraternity.
Kimpson is survived by: his wife of over 60 years, Wilhelmina Page Kimpson; three sons, Milton G. (Audra) Kimpson and Marc A. Kimpson, both of Columbia, SC and Marlon E. Kimpson, of Charleston, SC; a brother, Joseph E. Kimpson, of Columbia, SC; and a sister, Rudean K. Bush, of Williston, South Carolina; five grandchildren; and a host of other relatives.
Kimpson will be funeralized by Leevy’s Funeral Home with a private ceremony.