Remembering When

by Jerry Person
Huntington Beach City Historian

Dedicated to the people of Huntington Beach about its rich past

Maybe We Could Put a Donald in the White House


Donald D. Shipley (Photo:CityArchives)


Finally the voting for president is over, maybe not all the counting of ballots at this time. Even after the voting there is still demonstrations in towns and cities across America of who will be president, Donald or Joe.

Now if it had been our Donald from Huntington Beach running for the job, He most likely would easily receive the most votes.

Our Donald lived in the great state of California, a mayor and council member of Surf City and would receive its residents votes and he was also a New Englander by birth and would certainly being a Yankee would receive their state's votes.

This week we'll remember our Donald as a statesman, mayor and a fine gentleman who served his city's residents wit respect and during his time here in office saw many of the civic projects completed for the betterment of its residents.

It doesn't seem like 31 years have passed since Huntington Beach lost our its illustrious former mayor Donald D. Shipley.

I had the great pleasure of meeting and had a great admiration for this fine gentlemen who lived on Main Street.

Donald, or as most people knew him as Don Shipley was born in Stanford, Conn. in 1914 and always considered himself a true New England Yankee.

One of his first jobs was teaching biology at Lynchburg College in Virginia and for most of his thirty plus years were on the East Coast. He would probably get most of their votes.

In 1952 he came to California to take a position as a professor of biology at Cal State Long Beach and stayed on the staff there until he retired in 1980. He was for 18 years an advisor to the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. He would get the youth votes if he was running for president today.

Shipley came to Huntington Beach in 1956 to live and the first projects he did was purchase a home on Main Street.

Shipley was elected to our city council in April 1964 and served until April 1976 and was elected mayor three times- April 12, 1964, April 17, 1967, April 21, 1970 and was mayor pro-tempore in 1966-1967.

While mayor, the city was moving forward from a small town to a modern city and one of Shipley's pet project at the time was the building of the Central Library in Central Park along with good friend and councilmember Norma Gibbs help. He also was successful in securing the services of architects Dion and Richard Neutra to design it. More votes could be counted on.

Don Shipley with good friend Norna Gibbs at the dedication of Huntington Central Park and Shipley Nature Center (Photo:JP CityHistorian)

Shipley championed the restoration of the Bolsa Chica wetlands and the protection of the Least Tern that makes its nest there. When development threated the little bird, he took on the developers, the county and the state and won the battle to perserve its natural habitat. He may have lost the developer's vote but surely would have received the environmentalist votes.
 The city named an 18-acre part of Central Park the Shipley Nature Center in his honor.  More votes from the center's docents and visitors.

If you were fortunate to have been invited to his home, you would have thought his back yard was a nature center in itself. The walls inside his home was covered with awards, plaques and photos of himself with important people he had met during his lifetime. More votes from VIPs.

Legislative Office Opening. (L) Don Shipley, Sen. James Whetmore and Councilman Tom Welch. Circa 1964 (Photo:CityArchives)


As he retired he loved to travel abroad and he wrote numerous articles about his travels for the Huntington Beach News and with his camera in hand, took thousands of color slides of his adventures around the world.

He could be found at the dedications of the Huntington Center, Edison High, Golden West College, SeaCliff Village and SeaCliff Country Club that he helped to create while on council. A lot more votes here.

I can still remember going with Huntington Beach resident Ed Farber to see Don Shipley in the hospital just shortly before he passed away.

One of the last things we talked about from his hospital bed was his dissatisfaction at SeaCliff golf course being made a private club instead of keeping it open to the public as was in the original agreement he said.

Donald "Don" Shipley died on September 14, 1989 at the age of 75, leaving Huntington Beach just a little richer by his presence.

I'm sure if he were still alive today and ran for president with all the New England Yankee votes, the Virginia and Southern votes, the California votes, the environmentalist votes and the senior votes, we could have put him in the White House and have the Western White House right here in Surf City USA.