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Friends and family gather in Clemson to honor Tucker Hipps on anniversary of his death


A small cross commemorating the life of Tucker Hipps stands on Highway 93 near the scene of the 2014 incident. The cross was placed there shortly after Hipps’ death.

Three years ago, former Clemson student Tucker Hipps died while on a run with members of his fraternity. The story continues to be hazy, as there are holes yet to be filled.
“There’s about 30 to 40 seconds — maybe a minute — that we don’t know about,” Tucker’s father Gary Hipps said. “But we know a lot about everything else, and maybe that story will get told one day.”
The day is Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, and the Hipps family is still remembering Tucker’s life, along with raising awareness about hazing.
More than 30 people gathered at a cross erected in his honor on the Highway 93 bridge over Lake Hartwell where Hipps’ body was found.
The community came together to honor Hipps’ memory and pray for other students during National Hazing Prevention Week, which coincides with the three-year anniversary of Hipps’ death.
Hazing, Hipps’ parents say, is what killed their son. Hipps’ family believes he died as a result of being forced to walk along the railing of the Highway 93 bridge while on a run as a pledge with the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity on Sept. 22, 2014.
Fraternity members have frequently denied seeing Hipps fall, and Clemson University and local and national chapters of Sigma Phi Epsilon have denied responsibility for Hipps’ death.
The case remains open and unsolved, and no criminal charges have been filed. The Hipps family settled a lawsuit against Clemson and the fraternity last month.
While the Hipps family still wants answers as to what happened, they are also focused on advocating for change to prevent further incidents from happening.
The Tucker Hipps Transparency Act was signed into state law last year. It requires colleges to disclose violations by Greek life organizations.
“The whole purpose behind that act is to force public universities to publicly expose infractions … and violations so that families can make an informed decision and see their history,” Gary Hipps said. “… It takes oversight; it takes transparency; it takes initiative. You can’t just hand students a piece of paper and have them sign it that says “I understand I’m not supposed to haze,” and then expect for that to do the job.”
Yet the Hipps family doesn’t want the tragedy of Tucker’s death to overshadow his legacy and the person he was.
“There’s not a second you don’t think about him,” said Janice White, Tucker Hipps’ aunt. “He was a typical 19-year-old — sometimes you wanted to pinch his head off — but he was a good ole boy.”
Jake Wilson, Hipps’ cousin, said that while Hipps’ death is still hard at times, the family will continue to push for change.
“The Lord’s given us peace; we know where he’s at, but it’s a roller coaster. When it first happened there was just disbelief and denial … but as things have moved on we’ve become more at peace with where he’s at,” Wilson said. “We still want answers, but more than anything we want change because we don’t ever want this to happen again.”

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