Alvin Gibbs, Former Calhoun County License Commissioner, dies at 85

Alvin Gibbs, former Calhoun County License Commissioner, dies at 85
by Laura Johnson
Star Staff Writer Anniston Star
Jun 03, 2011 | 771 views | 0 | 15 | |
Where Alvin Gibbs went, memories followed.

During the two decades he was Calhoun County’s License Commissioner, he was a suit-and-tie man who went to work every day with a brown paper lunch bag in hand and with optimism in tow.

Away from work, he pitched baseballs with his grandchildren, worked on his family farm, promoted the Democratic Party with passion and lived out a love for God, those that knew him best said.

On Wednesday just before midnight, Gibbs’ family lost the 85-year-old at UAB Hospital to the effects of a stroke. But hours later in another Birmingham hospital not far away, the family welcomed his fifth great-grandchild. His name: Gibbs David Phillips.

“My granddad was full strength and full love, kind of all wrapped up into one,” Gibbs’ grandson, and the baby’s father, John David Phillips, said. “He left a legacy everywhere he was.”

Funeral services for Gibbs will be Sunday afternoon at 3 at Parker Memorial Baptist Church.

Between 1974 and 1994 anyone who fished, hunted, drove a vehicle or operated a business in Calhoun County first went through Gibbs’ office to buy the required license.

It was the post he took on the last leg of his professional life, but it wasn’t his only interest.

Gibbs fought in Germany in World War II, after which he married the woman who would be his wife of 65 years, Erlene. They had a daughter, and nurtured two grandchildren who gave him cherished great-grandchildren. He belonged to the Kiwanis Club and was a faithful member of Parker Memorial Baptist Church.

One of his many loves, farming, he acquired at his childhood home in Ranburne which he shared with 14 siblings. He was never more at home than he was there, on that farm atop a tractor, Phillips said.

“When he got onto the farm he grew up on, that’s where you saw my granddad just kind of come to life,” Phillips, a former Crimson Tide quarterback, said.

Gibbs had worked for 28 years at Anniston Electric Co., eventually becoming service manager, before former Gov. George Wallace appointed him to serve as the county’s license commissioner in 1974. But it was that work as a commissioner that allowed him to touch the greatest number of people with the kindness which his family remembers.

“There were so many people he came in contact with every day when he was a license commissioner that he touched,” his granddaughter Leighann McCullough said.

During the time Gibbs served as the license commissioner, he also served as the president the Association of Alabama Tax Collectors, oversaw the opening of the Jacksonville annex and established an annex in Piedmont, which was named in his honor by the Alabama Legislature in 2007.

“He was articulate, mild-mannered; very genuine and you knew that the day you met him,” said Barry Robertson, Calhoun County’s current license commissioner. “He loved his job, and he cared about his employees.”

Gibbs was also instrumental in helping local legislators craft laws, including the legislation that granted handicap status to the vehicles of disabled Alabamians, former state representative Gerald Willis said.

“Anything that pertained to the county and helping raise revenue and helping people out, he generally was the one who brought it to (local legislator’s) attention,” Willis said. “In my opinion Mr. Gibbs was the perfect example of a good public servant.”

Gibbs’ family members say the gentle strength and faith he shared is helping them let go of one life while welcoming another, with joy.

“This is just a day for family to celebrate both granddaddy’s life and the life of the new baby,” McCullough said. “If he was still here and I could say anything to him now it would be that his life is just beginning now because he is with his savior.”

Star staff writer Laura Johnson

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