City receives $100,000 gift from the estate of a former mayor

Tuesday, July 1, 2008 | 7:18 p.m. CDT; updated 10:22 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — A gift of $100,000 from the estate of a former Columbia mayor, planning commissioner and builder made its way into city government hands this week, four years after his death.

On Monday, representatives of Richard Knipp’s estate presented the money in commemoration of the service of former City Manager Ray Beck.

“Richard, in his will, wanted to give this money to the city in honor of his good friend,” estate representative Steve Willey said. “That’s the way he put it — his good friend, Ray Beck.”

Knipp came to Columbia in the late 1930s and through his years was responsible for the construction of commercial buildings, churches and the city’s original public library. He was on the City Council in two spurts stretching from the 1960s to the 1980s and served after that on the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission.

Willey worked with Knipp on the planning commission after Knipp’s council years. Steve Shufelberger, the second estate representative and manager of Knipp Construction Inc., worked with Knipp for nearly three decades. He said current City Manager Bill Watkins and Beck have talked about using the donation to help fund construction of the plaza in front of the city hall addition.

“There’s no stipulation, as long as Ray Beck’s name is mentioned in the same breath as the donation,” Shufelberger said.

Beck left the city manager post in 2005 after having worked with Knipp on the Planning Commission and City Council for years. As director of the Public Works Department, Beck crossed paths at turns with Knipp, especially when Knipp’s hands helped develop the city.

“It was a big surprise to me,” Beck told the Missourian in 2004, referring to the donation when it first came to light following Knipp’s death. “(Knipp) never allowed his private ownership to interfere with the best interests of the city. He just had a real interest in the good of Columbia.”

Beck could not be reached for comment on Tuesday afternoon, but he did attend a ceremony at which the check from Knipp’s estate was presented.

But Knipp is still fresh on the minds of those who knew him. His institutional knowledge of the city arguably stemmed from the work, time and money he invested into it.

“He had a superb memory,” Willey said. “He could remember things that happened 10, 15, 20 years ago. When you’re talking about how things happened and came to be, Richard could explain it, because he’d been there.”

Shufelberger said Knipp loved Columbia.

“I think this was his last gift to the city, or the last gift he could impart to the city,” Shufelberger said.

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