Former Councilman Ed Gibson dies

Published 1:00 am Sunday, May 1, 2011

Ed Gibson, a former member of the Washington City Council, died Saturday at age 88.

Ed Gibson

Gibson served nine consecutive two-year terms on the council. He was first elected and took office in 1989. Voters seemed to like his fiscal conservatism and no-nonsense approach to city government.

Gibson was a proponent of annexation, if doing so was financially feasible for the city. Gibson contended that Washington must be more aggressive when it comes to annexation, particularly forced annexation, because it helps the city to grow.

“I think we are long overdue on annexation,” Gibson said in an interview in October 2005.

After 18 years on the council, Gibson chose not to seek re-election in 2007.

During his nine terms in office, Gibson served with Judy Meier Jennette when she was either a council member or mayor.

“I truly loved and admired Ed and enjoyed every minute I served on the council with him,” Jennette said Saturday afternoon. “He was a bright spot in my public service life. … He and I didn’t always agree on every issue, but what I loved most about Ed is that when we disagreed, we always ended up back as friends.”

Councilman Doug Mercer said he knew Gibson for years, with he and Gibson often siding on many issues, but sometimes he and Gibson “didn’t see eye to eye on some things.” The two did share a conservative approach when it came to city finances, Mercer shared.

“Ed worked for the good of Washington in a conservative manner,” Mercer said Saturday afternoon.

Mercer said he and Gibson shared more than a conservative nature when it came to city finances.

“Ed and I actually worked together at TG (Texasgulf, a forerunner of PotashCorp Aurora) for a while. We even commuted together some,” Mercer said.

“He was a real fountain of information for me because he was there so long,” said Mercer, recalling that Gibson would bring him up to speed on city matters whenever he (Mercer) would return to the council. Mercer was on and off the council several times during Gibson’s 18 years on the council.

Former Washington Mayor L. Stewart Rumley’s connection with Gibson goes back before the two met about two decades ago.

“Ed knew my mother. … They attended the same Presbyterian church in Atlanta,” Rumley said Saturday afternoon.

Rumley said he met Gibson when he (Rumley) was going door to door seeking support for his mayoral bid.

“He flat told me, ‘There’s no way in the world you’re going to beat Floyd Brothers (the mayor then),’” Rumley recalled.

Rumley won the election.

“He got a big charge telling that” in the years after that election, Rumley recalled. “Ed and I ended up becoming good friends.”

Rumley recalled that when he, Gibson and other city officials would attend meetings, conferences or other gatherings, Gibson would ask for a “doggie bag” for his leftover food. That food would make its way to Gibson’s dogs, Rumley said. Rumley said he would jokingly accuse Gibson of being a cheapskate, taking home his leftovers to feed his wife, Virginia.

Sometimes, Gibson was hard to figure out when it came to politics and taking care of city business.

“He was always a wild card. You could never tell which way he was going to vote,” Rumley said.

On Dec. 19, 2007, the council honored Gibson with a proclamation recognizing his service to the city.

Gibson, who graduated from N.C. State University, played football for the Wolfpack, once blocking a punt in a game against Miami University in the Orange Bowl stadium in 1942, which resulted in N.C. State winning the game 2-0. He graduated from N.C. State with a degree in chemical engineering

After graduating from N.C. State, Gibson served as an officer in the Navy, including service in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Gibson moved to Washington in 1971.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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