Paul Gibson Jr., New York City’s first black deputy mayor and a longtime Niagara University trustee, died Friday, July 11, after a long illness. He was 86.
Gibson commenced his tenure as an NU trustee in 1973 while serving as vice president of American Airlines, one of the highest positions an African-American had achieved at any airline.
In 1974, Gibson was appointed as the first black deputy mayor of New York by Mayor Abe Beame. Gibson held the position until 1977, when he resigned to resume his career as a senior executive with American Airlines. He worked for American Airlines for seven more years, and then began a 20-year affiliation with Davidoff Malito and Hutcher, a law and lobbying firm.
Gibson brought vast experience to his 20 years of service to NU’s Board of Trustees. But more than that, he served as an example of a person committed to the Vincentian ideal of service to others.
Throughout his long and distinguished career, Gibson was active on a variety of civic and social fronts as a staunch advocate for human rights, working to improve schools, housing conditions and employment opportunities for the underserved.
The organizational associations he had over the years are evidence of his concern for others. The list includes the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the United Way of New York City, the National Urban Coalition, and the National Urban Affairs Council. He was also active in community groups in the Borough of Queens.
As an expression of admiration and respect for the example he set through his work and community service, Niagara University recognized Gibson with an honorary doctor of commercial science in 1983. Ten years later, on May 22, 1993, Gibson received the university’s highest honor, its President’s Medal, which was presented by the Rev. Brian J. O’Connell, C.M.
When Gibson stepped down from the Board of Trustees in 1993, Niagara University bestowed on him the title of trustee emeritus, an honor granted to only 21 individuals in Niagara’s 158-year history.
“Paul Gibson was a loyal friend and trusted adviser whose counsel was sought and cherished by five Niagara University presidents,” stated the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., NU’s current president. “We will forever be grateful for the wisdom he imparted on us, and for the remarkable trailblazer he was for the African-American community. The thoughts and prayers of the entire Niagara University community are with Mr. Gibson’s family – especially his wife, Marcia, his sons, Paul and David, and his four grandchildren.”
Gibson was born in New York, graduated from Boys H.S. in Brooklyn, served in the Army, and received degrees from City College and the New York University School of Law.
At the time of his passing, he was living in Jamaica, Queens, not far from another Vincentian institution, St. John’s University, which honored him with an honorary degree in 1976.
Gibson’s funeral was held Friday, July 18, at the First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica.