Julian “Jevie” Gibson worked as the principal of North Forsyth High School for 21 years, helping to guide its students and teachers through the early years of integration within the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.
“He was a real leader,” said Jerry Peoples, who worked at North Forsyth as a teacher when Gibson served at its principal. “Everyone in the school system had a hard time dealing with integration during that time, but we survived it. We made a lot of progress for everyone.”
Gibson, 92, died Tuesday at his home of natural causes, said his wife, Nancy Gibson. She described Julian Gibson as a good husband, father and grandfather.
“He was the kindest and most generous person I’ve ever known,” Nancy Gibson said of her husband. “Everywhere we went, he was greeted by his former students and teachers.”
Julian Gibson became principal of North Forsyth in 1963 when the school opened.
Beaufort Bailey, a former Forsyth County commissioner, said Gibson was a tough, but fair principal.
“I have a lot of respect for him,” said Bailey who served on the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education in the 1970s. “I liked Julian a whole lot.”
Gibson grew up in the Children’s Home in Winston-Salem, according to his obituary. He graduated from Reynolds High School in 1942.
Gibson served as a Navy pilot during World War II, flying off the USS Cabot, an aircraft carrier in the Pacific theater. After the war, he received a bachelor’s degree at Lenoir-Rhyne College in Hickory, according to his obituary. Gibson later received a master’s degree in educational administration at UNC Greensboro.
After working as a biology teacher and coach at Mineral Springs High School, he became the principal of South Fork School in 1951. He later served as the principal at Northwest High School in 1955. Eight years later, Gibson became principal at North Forsyth.
In 2000, the school board named Gibson Elementary School on Walker Road in honor of Gibson. The school opened a year later.
Gibson was an avid golfer, chef and gardener, Nancy Gibson said. He also enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“Julian had a strong value system,” Peoples said. “He had a tremendous ability to motivate people.”
During the 1968-69 school year, North Forsyth closed for two days after protests erupted over the choice of the homecoming queen.
A black student got the most votes, but not a majority. The school held a runoff election and a white contestant won. When black students objected, Gibson canceled the homecoming dance and crowning.
In November 1970, racial violence broke out at the school. Gibson expelled a handful of students permanently and later suspended several more students for the rest of the school year, the Journal reported in July 1971.
A few days after the first incident, about 250 black students gathered in front of the school. A committee of these students asked to speak with Gibson, but he told them that he would speak to the committee after the other students went to class. The students refused to comply, and Gibson gave each of them a five-day suspension.
Many black parents were upset by Gibson’s actions, and demanded that the school board fire him. The school board instead supported Gibson, and the racial tension at North Forsyth eventually dissipated. Gibson retired in 1984.
Mary Jo Martin, Gibson’s secretary for 18 years, said that Gibson considered the safety of every student at North Forsyth when he made his decisions in both cases.
“There were threats, and some students might have been hurt,” Martin said. “We had wonderful black students at the school, and we had wonderful white students at the school. But Mr. Gibson saw them just as students. He was a hero during those years.”