County mourns loss of ‘Judge Gibson’

Published 9:22 pm Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Flags in the city of Troy will be flown at half-staff Friday in memory Judge Billy Gibson, who was one of the county’s most respected and appreciated public servants.

Gibson died on Wednesday but his footprint will long be on Pike County.

Gibson was known as a dedicated patriot, an outstanding lawyer, an astute politician and, in general, a good, caring and fun-loving man.

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“There will never be a more dedicated patriot than Judge Billy Gibson,” said Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford. “He dearly loved his country. He was a veteran of World War II and he appreciated the opportunity he had to serve. He was a longtime member of American Legion Post 70 in Troy and served as post commander and adjunct. Judge Gibson will be remembered, first, as a great patriot.”

Lunsford said that Gibson was an unusual fellow and a great politician.

“I served with Judge Gibson on the city commission and he knew politics and he knew how to ‘politick.’ One thing that stands out in my mind was his sense of humor. He loved to play jokes.”

Lunsford said an industrial prospect was in town to look at a location site and he and Gibson toured the property with company officials.

“Billy was an avid collector of arrowheads and he had put a couple in his pocket,” Lunsford said. “He took them out and pretended to pick them up off the ground. He told those officials that he hoped the property wasn’t the site of an Indian burial ground. He really had those people going.”

Former Circuit Clerk Brenda Peacock also remembered Gibson’s sense of humor and how he “livened up the courthouse.”

“Judge Gibson had the best sense of humor and he liked to play practical jokes,” Peacock said. “He made working at the courthouse fun. But he had a serious side, too, and he knew politics in and out. He was a gentleman to the bone. He was a good man and he was always eager and willing to help people out. Judge Gibson was my mentor and a dear friend.”

Pike County Sheriff Russell Thomas was around the courthouse as a deputy when Gibson was probate judge.

“Judge Gibson knew everybody in Pike County and everybody knew him,” Thomas said. “He knew everybody’s daddy and granddaddy and had probably helped most of them out at one time or the other. He was a good judge and a good man and he cared a lot about Pike County. He had a wealth of knowledge about the county and that’s a big advantage when you’re the probate judge.”

Thomas said he was impressed by Gibson’s commitment to and love of country.

“He attended all of the Veteran’s Day programs with Miss Jean, who was always there to support him,” Thomas said. “I admired them for that. And, I remember how hard he worked on the Lockheed Martin project. He was the chair of the Pike County Commission and Britt Thomas was the county administrator and they both deserve a lot of credit for an industry like that coming to rural Pike County. I know how much pride Judge Gibson took in that accomplishment. I’m not sure that Lockheed Martin would be here today if it had not been for him.”

Britt Thomas agreed that Gibson played a large role in bringing Lockheed Martin, which was known then as Martin Marietta, to Pike County.

“Judge Gibson was the face of the Pike County Commission,” Thomas said. “He was truly the backbone of the Commission and was very instrumental in the efforts to get Martin Marietta to the county. He had great people skills and he knew what to do and how to do and when to do. Judge Gibson was greatly respected by the officials at Martin Marietta.”

Thomas said Gibson was also a gentleman and one of the true leaders of Pike County.

“He came from a family of public servants and he served his country with pride during World War II,” Thomas said. “Judge Gibson was a special person and I enjoyed working with him and it was an honor to know him.”

In addition to helping to bring Martin Marietta to Pike County, Gibson also spearheaded the organization of the Pike County Volunteer Fire Department.

Both of those accomplishments have impacted Pike County in a positive way and will do so in years to come. However, the contributions of Gibson were not limited to the big things that he championed.

Former Pike County Probate Judge Bill Stone followed Gibson into office and said Gibson took the time and made the effort to help him get “up to speed.”

“Judge Gibson was a smart attorney and he would routinely come by the courthouse and go over cases and the operation of the office with me,” Stone said. “He was always willing to help people in any way that he could.”

Stone said Gibson will be remembered for the success of the Martin Marietta project and the organization of the county’s volunteer fire department but he will also be remembered by those he helped in a less public way.

“Judge Gibson did a lot of things for people that no one knew about,” Stone said. “He often did work for churches and cemetery foundations and he did it without compensation. Judge Gibson did a lot for the people of Pike County. He was well liked and well respected and he will be greatly missed.”