Born to a life of privilege, Fred Lippitt (1917-2005) decided it was a privilege to serve others. The Lippitt family was among the first settlers of Rhode Island. In 1638, John Lippitt arrived in Providence. An ancestor, Christopher Lippitt, commanded Rhode Island troops in the Revolution. The Lippitt name also dots Rhode Island’s landscape: one of the earliest still-standing textile mills is located in the West Warwick village of Lippitt and the Hanora-Lippitt Mill in Woonsocket, once a bustling woolen mill, is the retirement home to some of the people who worked in it.
The son of United States Senator Henry F. Lippitt (1856-1933), grandson of Governor Henry Lippitt (1818-1891) and nephew of Governor Charles Warren Lippitt (1846 -1924), Fred Lippitt had many role models from prior generations of public servants as well as from contemporary family colleagues such as John H. Chafee and Duncan Doolittle. A life-long Republican, Fred Lippitt’s loyalty to the Rhode Island community overcame partisan barriers as a leader of a political minority. He served in the lower house of the Rhode Island General Assembly from 1961 to 1983 and was its minority leader for ten years.
The championship of minorities was one of the hallmarks of Fred’s public life. He supported fair housing legislation during his years as state representative, and he implemented pro-minority and women’s business opportunities for state contracts when he was the director of the state Department of Administration.
A graduate of St. Marks School and Yale University, Fred Lippitt devoted decades to Brown University. His service to Brown was marked by an honorary degree, the title of Senior Fellow, and his receipt of the President’s Medal, the highest recognition of service. At the time of his death, he left the school more than $6 million dollars and his home on Prospect Street. Less well known were his gifts that enabled many minority and underprivileged students to get an education at Brown.
In addition to serving the State of Rhode Island, Fred Lippitt’s national service included military action in the Philippines and Italy during World War II. In Korea he was awarded the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. Later, he served as commanding officer of the 103rd Field Artillery of the Rhode Island National Guard with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Fred took on many public challenges as Chairman of the Board of Rhode Island Hospital, Chairman of the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education, and Chairman of the Providence Plan. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Providence three times. Fred could disagree on public policy without being disagreeable and often served in high level capacities for politicans he had opposed at the polls, as when he became judge of the Providence Housing Court during the Cianci administration.
His sharing with the community of material wealth continues beyond his life by means of grants that he and his sister Mary Ann have made to the Rhode Island Foundation, Butler Hospital, Rhode Island Hospital, the Rhode Island School of Design, Brown University, the MET School, the Nature Conservancy, the John E. Fogarty Foundation, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Providence, the Providence Public Library, and the Southside Community Land Trust. Fred was a patrician and a patron in the noblest sense of those words