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Gibson, Rev. Theodore (1915-1981) | University of Miami Finding Aids

Name: Gibson, Rev. Theodore (1915-1981)

Historical Note:

Reverend Theodore R. Gibson devoted his life toward the advancement of civil rights in Miami. He was born to Bahamian immigrant parents. Thanks to the efforts of his mother who worked as a maid, Gibson attended St. Augustine College in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Bishop Payne Divinity School. He returned to Miami to become pastor of the 800 member congregation of Christ Episcopal Church in Coconut Grove.

He spoke strongly about the need for improvements of conditions for Black residents in the community, and fought for desegregation of Miami. As early as 1945 he led a group of blacks to swim at the all-white Baker’s Haulover Beach. The action served as an impetuous for the creation of the Virginia Key Beach for colored people by the Dade County Commission.

In the 1960s he joined forces with Grove activist Elizabeth Verrick and the Coconut Grove Slum Clearance Committee to ameliorate the standard of living of residents in the Black Grove. These efforts led to the establishment of indoor plumbing and improvements in the sewage disposal system.

Gibson’s mission for equality led him to posts of importance; he served as president of the Miami NAACP in the 1950s and 60s. The 1963 Gibson Case centered on his refusal to reveal the membership of the local chapter of the NAACP. His stance resulted in a prison sentence in 1960, but in 1963 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Gibson’s favor and dismissed the charges.

Reverend Gibson was later elected to the Miami City Commission, a job he held from 1972 and for nearly the rest of his life, until 1981. As a commissioner Gibson pushed for the inclusion of African Americans and Hispanics to civil service jobs and to the promotion of blacks to higher level administrative positions.Thelma Vernel Anderson Gibson (1926-  ) is a native of Coconut Grove, who along with her husband Reverend Gibson, promoted the civil rights of black residents in Miami. Mrs. Gibson has more than 30 years of professional experience in the field of nursing with degrees from Saint Agnes School of Nursing in North Carolina and Teachers College at Columbia University in New York.

Mrs. Gibson’s work in the community has focused on health and education projects such as the Gibson Health Initiative and the Theodore and Thelma School of the Performing Arts in Coconut Grove. In addition she is a board member of the Coconut Grove Mental Health Association, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and a trustee of the University of Miami.

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