If you have been to the civic center here in Folsom, Jack Kipp’s name might sound familiar since it was named after him. This week, I was getting a box down from our archive and saw our collection of some of Kipp’s papers and belongings and realized I had yet to write a blog on Folsom’s former Mayor and arguably one of the most recognizable Folsom names from the recent past. So, without further ado, let me introduce you (or reintroduce you) to John Eugene “Jack” Kipp and his family.
The Kipp family came to the area in 1856 to homestead in Deer Valley starting with Jack Kipp’s great-grandfather Johannes Ludwig Kipp. Their property was 40 acres and used a vineyard and a brandy distillery (he was the first person in California licensed to sell brandy) which he sold to miners. His first born son was named John Henry Kipp and he grew up helping on the homestead. In 1890, John Henry moved to Represa to work at Folsom Prison, serving as Lieutenant of the Guard. One of his sons was John Eugene “Gene” Kipp who went into business with his brother-in-law Charles Higgins in 1909 to open the Kipp and Higgins grocery store which was located at 811 Sutter Street.
Gene married Mary Evelyn Spano in 1910 and their only child, Jack Kipp was born on September 6th, 1920 at their Mormon Street home. Growing up, Jack Kipp attended Folsom’s Granite Grammar School and helped out with the family business. In later years, Kipp said that he had hated school and got kicked out of many of his classes and after being expelled from Folsom High School for being a “trouble-maker”, he attended the private Catholic school Christian Brothers in Sacramento where he was a class officer and graduated in 1936. After graduation, he led the Kipp and Higgins baseball team in Folsom, worked at the store, volunteered with the Fire Department, and began research on a history of Folsom prison. At the age of 21, Kipp joined the Army during World War II and was stationed in Fort Ord in the Monterey Bay area, while still in the military, he married Rose Marie Agosta in 1943 and the couple went on to have two children, Michael and Philomena “Cookie” Kipp.
After the war, Jack returned to Folsom and bought out his uncle’s shares in the Kipp and Higgins store, running it with his father and then on his own until he closed the grocery in 1952 to open an appliance store. From 1958 to 1974 and again in 1987 to 1994, for a total of 23 years, 21 of which he was Mayor, Jack Kipp served on the City Council.
Kipp was one of those local politicians that everyone loved or absolutely did not like but everyone seemed to agree that Kipp did get things done one way or the other. He was known as the man who built Folsom and for good reason, he annexed Folsom, secured a water system for the town, helped start the zoo, helped build Folsom’s first hospital after his daughter had a medical emergency, secured land for Folsom Lake College to be built, helped build Folsom Historical Society (thank you, Jack) and helped expand and build shopping centers. I could go on and on about the long list of his accomplishments, but I think all of you readers get the picture.
When his political career came to an end it was in part because he rubbed people the wrong way. Although he was successful in growing Folsom, he was often loud and stubborn and did not like all the red tape associated with modern politics. He stepped down at the end of 1994, completing his term and had a retirement party hosted by the city which included a roast from other city council members. After retirement from city politics, Jack turned towards his passion for history and led tours throughout Folsom where he told stories about the history of different buildings along Sutter street from the Gold Rush and wrote a history column for the newspaper.
Jack Kipp passed away on the 26th of May 2006 at the age of 85. He had several services including one at Miller Funeral Home and one at St. John’s Catholic Church. He is buried at St. Mary’s in Sacramento.