Former Wright State University trustee Paul Tipps, a giant in Ohio and Dayton Democratic politics, died Tuesday at the age of 78.
Tipps led the Ohio Democratic Party for eight years. When he left the helm in 1983, Democrats controlled both chambers of the Ohio General Assembly, all five statewide constitutional offices, the Ohio Supreme Court and both U.S. Senate seats. He was a master at recruiting and grooming electable candidates.
“He always said the key to being a successful chair was recruiting good candidates and grooming them to govern. Winning was never enough,” said Democratic political consultant and former Statehouse reporter Sandy Theis.
“I had the good fortune to inherit a Hall of Fame ticket in 1982,” Tipps wrote on his list of personal achievements. “The largest win in modern history at that time.”
Tipps credited his political success to luck and an impressive team of mentors, including John Glenn, C.J. McLin and Vern Riffe.
Former Dayton Mayor Rhine McLin, who also served in the Ohio House and Senate, said she considered Tipps a family member.
“Before Paul Tipps became the Montgomery County Democratic Party chair, the Democrats and the blacks had separate party headquarters. My dad and Paul worked together to change that. That partnership helped Democrats win in Montgomery County for a long time and solidified their long friendship and mutual respect. And it eventually helped Paul become one of the most successful state party chairs in Ohio history,” McLin said. “Paul understood people and he understood politics. You have to be able to know one to be effective with the other.”
Former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn said in a written statement: “Paul did great work as a civic activist through so many years. The state of Ohio, our John Glenn College of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University and we personally had no better friend. His loss is a major one for us all.”
Tipps grew up in Cincinnati but made Dayton his home after graduating from University of Dayton in 1960 with a business degree. He spent 21 years as a property manager in Dayton and headed the Montgomery County Democratic Party from 1970 to 1977.
He co-founded State Street Consultants in 1983 with Republican Neil Clark and the lobbying firm was the go-to-powerhouse of political influence for more than 20 years. Tipps retired from the firm in 2005 but maintained financial ties. He and Clark went through a bitter business breakup and dissolved the firm in 2008.
As a UD student, Tipps played one year as a football fullback for the Flyers and earned the Distinguished Military Graduate award in the ROTC program. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Infantry and served in a training battalion as the executive officer at Fort Knox.
He got his start in Democratic politics working on C.J. McLin’s first campaign for office in 1964. McLin later got Tipps appointed to the county party executive committee. Tipps served as a delegate to every Democratic National Convention from 1968 through 2000.
He is survived by his daughters Debora Batta, Penny Tipps, Tammara Tipps, Polly Tipps-Kesig and son Tony Tipps. He leaves numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
His family released the following statement: “People have long praised his ability bring people together to get things done. He partnered with C.J. McLin during the height of racial tensions in Dayton. He deftly worked with both parties in the state legislature on policies that moved Ohio forward.”
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