Guy Lipscomb leaves legacies in art, commerce and philanthropy

Entrepreneur, philanthropist, organizer, artist - Guy F. Lipscomb Jr. excelled at each, and left legacies to prove it.

Lipscomb, who died Thursday at age 92, was a former University of South Carolina basketball player (1936-38) and stood 6 feet 5 1/2 inches tall.

"When we were young, he used to tell us he was a middle-sized giant," said Marshall Foster, one of his four daughters. "And we believed him. And after all, a middle-sized giant can do anything."

Lipscomb nearly did everything.

He first made his mark expanding a small embalming fluid company started by his father, a USC chemistry professor. Alongside his brother-in-law, George Fant, Lipscomb shifted the company's emphasis to stencils and pressure-sensitive tape. Continental Tape Co., which became Anchor Continental, employed 700 people at its peak. The family sold the company in 1979.

For his work with Continental, Lipscomb was selected for the S.C. Business Hall of Fame in 1994.

Lipscomb put a big chunk of the profit from the sale of the company into a charitable foundation. Thirty years later, the Lipscomb Family Foundation still supports many local charities. His work with the foundation earned Lipscomb the United Way of the Midlands' Humanitarian of the Year award in 2005.

When Lipscomb cut back on his work with Continental in the 1970s, Gov. John West asked him to coordinate efforts to create a state museum. As chairman of the museum commission, Lipscomb had a say in nearly every decision during the 14-year struggle that ended in 1988 with the renovation of the former Columbia Mill into the State Museum

"I'm convinced there would not be a State Museum without Guy," the museum's then-director Tony Ganong said when Lipscomb stepped down from his commission seat in 1995.

About the time he started the museum effort, Lipscomb finally found time for what would be the true passion of the later part of his life - art. He had dabbled in art as a youth and took some art classes as a young adult. But only with his retirement from Continental in 1975 did he dive in.

He studied at the Art Students League in New York, traveled to many of the great art museums of the world and began his personal watercolor journey from realism to abstract.

"A painter first learns how to work with paint," Lipscomb said, but as that painter matures in his craft, he reaches the point where "he doesn't know what's going to happen as he pushes the paint."

In 1997, the museum Lipscomb helped get off the ground put on a 20-year retrospective of his watercolors. But the true peak of his art career came just four years ago, when for the third time, one of his paintings was selected for the annual American Watercolor Society show, earning him membership in the society.

Lipscomb loved to share his knowledge of painting with others, especially his 10 grandchildren. He especially enjoyed packing his painting supplies and heading to the family beach house, where he would teach the next generation the joys of creating art, Foster said.

"One of my daughters said he was 'the absolute perfect grandfather,'" Foster said. "He so loved giving back, trying to pass on those blessings given to him."