A memorial service for former congressman Sam Melville Gibbons will be held at Tampa's Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church, where the former congressman was a longtime member. Open to the public, the service is scheduled to begin 11 a.m. on Oct. 20, according to a TBO.com report.
Gibbons, a World War II veteran and iconic Bay Area figure and politician, was instrumental in the creation of the University of South Florida. He died this week at age 92.
Gibbons, born Jan. 20, 1920, served in the Florida State House of Representatives, the Floride State Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. He is the namesake for the Sam M. Gibbons U.S. Courthouse in Tampa, at 801 North Florida Ave.
Congressman Gus Bilirakis issued the following statement Oct. 10:
“Today, the Tampa Bay area lost a great leader and a great friend. Sam was steadfast in his commitment to our community, and his contributions helped our area grow and develop into the great place we know and love today. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones during this difficult time.”
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor recounted the following:
“He was a D-Day paratrooper, behind the front lines in Normandy on June 6, 1944. In the state Legislature, he led the effort to create the University of South Florida. In the United States Congress, he looked out for the young and old alike. He was an early backer of Head Start for children, and he was an early supporter of Medicare and hospice care for seniors. As chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, he fought for sound trade policies to propel our nation’s economy and to find peaceful solutions to our world’s troubles. He fought for civil rights for all Americans. His legacy can be felt when our children achieve in our classrooms, when our seniors use Medicare at the doctor’s office, when our loved ones are in hospice care and when students and researchers make a mark on campus at the University of South Florida. Tampa would not be what it is today without the work and dedication of Sam Gibbons.”
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn issued the following statement Oct. 10:
"Sam Gibbons was an iconic figure in Tampa politics. He was the product of a time and place in American politics where your word mattered, civility was the currency, and country came before party. His enduring legacy will be the many graduates of the University of South Florida, which is a world-class university today because of his tireless efforts."
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Gibbons in 1997 was the first recipient of the Ellsworth G. Simmons Good Government Award, given annually in Tampa to honor an individual (or group) for their significant role in improving government through leadership and vision.
The Oracle student newspaper at the University of South Florida remembered Gibbons as " 'the father of USF' " who "sponsored bills that created the Head Start program for education and supported some of the earliest versions of Medicare and many social reform programs in the era of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty."
The Washington Post, in its obituary by Adam Bernstein, described Gibbons as, "a Florida Democrat who helped shepherd War on Poverty legislation at the start of his congressional career and briefly ascended to the chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee near the end of his 17 terms on Capitol Hill."
The New York Times, in its obituary by Douglas Martin, described Gibbons as, "a 17-term Democratic congressman from Florida who championed free trade and government support of health care, castigated Republican colleagues for 'whimpering' and for six months was chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee."
The Associated Press report published in major newspapers, including The Miami Herald, noted that Gibbons "died late Tuesday or early Wednesday at a Tampa retirement home, according to his son." Tim Gibbons is quoted as saying that his father died peacefully and that the two had chatted Tuesday night, Oct. 9, while looking out over Tampa Bay.
Sam M. Gibbons Memorial Service
- The memorial at the Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church at 3501 West San Jose St. in Tampa is expected to draw hundreds of mourners. The memorial reportedly will be broadcast over speakers to the overflow crowd outside.