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Reverend Theodore R. Gibson

Reverend Theodore R. Gibson (1915-1981) 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

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.

Dr. John O. Brown, M.D.

Dr. John O. Brown, M.D. was born in Colbert, Oklahoma to Edward D. Brown and Gala Hill of Texas. He spearheaded much of the activism that was associated with the civil rights movement in Dade County. His name is linked with Sit-ins, pickets, the Gibson vs. Board of Education suit and Miami's role in the 1963 March on Washington.

Dr. Brown attended the University of Wisconsin - Madison and graduated in 1943. That same year, he married Marie Faulkner in Nashville, TN. They had four children (three boys and one girl). He later attended Meharry Medical School (a historically black Medical College) in Nashville and graduated from there in 1950. He completed his post-graduate work in Ophthalmology at the Veteran's Administration Hospital at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama. After completing his formal education Dr. Brown moved to Miami in 1955 and opened his Ophthalmology practice in Liberty City the following year.

During WWII he was an Officer in the U.S. Army and first lieutenant in the all black 92nd Infantry Division nicknamed the Buffalo Soldiers. Dr. Brown was awarded a Purple Heart with an Oak Leaf Cluster for his heroic service in the Amo Po Valley and Apennines campaigns in Italy during the Second World War. The "Oak Leaf Cluster" indicates that a subsequent award was added to the initial decoration.

By the late 1950s he was head of the Miami Chapter of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE). He led marches to integrate lunch counters and public beaches. Many of these protests were patterned after the historic lunch counter sit-ins across the South. Dr. Brown was quoted saying that Miami was Jim Crow from top to bottom in the late 1950s and 1960s (The Miami Herald, 02/26/1995). One of his sons (John, Jr.) was among the black children who sued the Dade County Public School System (Gibson vs. Board of Education) to force desegregation of Public Schools (Edison High School). The case was settled in 1963, the same year Dr. Brown participated in the March on Washington. By then John, Jr. had graduated high school and gone away to Harvard University.

Dr. Brown was voted president- elect of the National Medical Association and took control as President in 1986. He was a life member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and member of the regional board of the National Council of Christians and Jews and he was a Director at Capital Bank along with being a Charter member of the Community Race Relations Board (CRB).

Bob Simms

Robert H. Simms, former President and CEO of Bob Simms Associates, Inc., is widely acknowledged as a social engineer/social mechanic. Bob is recognized for his demonstrated skills as a communicator, problem solver, and creator of innovative community programs for public and private sector institutions.

He is the architect of the "Minority Experience" Management Training Program which was featured in the April 1988 Conference of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and "Presstime," the journal of the American Newspaper Publisher's Association. His clients have included: Knight Ridder Institute of Training, USA Today, Newsday, The American Newspaper Publishers Association, The American Society of Newspapers Editors, The Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, The Charlotte Observer, Press-Telegram (Long Beach, Ca), The Dade County Public Schools, Metro Dade County, Williamson Cadillac Company, and others.

Previously in his former company, Bob Simms Associates, Inc., he served as a contractor with the U.S. Department of Defense Race Relations Institute at Patrick Air Force Base for four years as a designer of their "field experience." His three day program, "The Miami Inner City Minority Experience," explored the values, culture, strengths and mores of Miami-Dade County's diverse population. His models offered constructive alternatives for understanding and valuing the contribution of each group.

Prior to his work as an external consultant, Bob served as Executive Director of the Metropolitan Dade County Community Relations Board for 16 years. His community involvement covers the broad spectrum of Dade County's civic institutions and organizations, ranging from the Orange Bowl Committee, the University of Miami, Board of Trustees, to community based organizations.

For more informationon Bob Simms visit: Bob Simms: An Activist’s Life and Legacy

Michael Lloyd Carlebach

Michael Lloyd Carlebach was born in New York City, and grew up in Chappaqua and Old Chatham, New York.  He graduated from Colgate University with majors in French and Political Science in 1967.  He earned Masters degrees at Florida State University (American Studies) in 1980 and Brown University (American Civilization) in 1984, then a PhD in American Civilization from Brown in 1988.

As a freelance photojournalist and documentary photographer he produced work for magazines and newspapers around the country, and exhibited images in one-person and group shows in this country and abroad.  He is especially interested in illuminating the lives of people outside the glare of contemporary media, in finding and memorializing extraordinary moments – some of them humorous, some not -- that otherwise would be forgotten. 

His scholarly work includes seminal studies of early photojournalism in America published by the Smithsonian Institution Press (The Origins of Photojournalism in America, American Photojournalism Comes of Age, and Working Stiffs: Occupational Portraits in the Age of Tintypes. In addition, he and Eugene Provenzo published Farm Security Administration Photographs of Florida.

Now professor emeritus, during his more than twenty-five years of at the University of Miami, Dr. Carlebach won numerous awards for teaching and scholarship. At various times he chaired the Journalism Program in the School of Communication, the Department of Art and Art History, and the Program in American Studies. 

Date published: 2009-05-09