Everett approves a tribute to key figure in its history

EVERETT — Carl Gipson, a beloved former city councilman, has racked up one more honor.

City leaders unanimously approved a plan Wednesday to name its senior center the Carl Gipson Senior Center of Everett.

“What you all have done tonight is a tremendous thing for this community,” Gipson told the City Council on Wednesday night.

Supporters spent more than 30 minutes detailing how Gipson made Everett a better place.

They described a plain-spoken, hard-working family man with a gift for uniting people in his community, sometimes despite themselves.

Gipson, 85, served on the City Council for 24 years, beginning in 1971. He helped usher in civic projects, including Forest Park pool, Water E. Hall golf course and the senior center.

He sat on numerous community boards and committees as well as serving as a deacon at Second Baptist Church.

“He was an amazingly influential guy to me,” former City Councilman Bill Rucker said. “I didn’t think of him as a policy wonk, but somebody who had tremendous compassion for others.”

Gipson was born and raised in Arkansas, the grandson of a slave.

He settled in Everett in the 1950s after he was stationed at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, when his family couldn’t find a place to live on the island or in Mount Vernon. He bought a home on what was then an all-white Hoyt Avenue in north Everett. He moved in, even though some threatened his family. Gipson and his late wife Jodie raised three boys there. His sons serve on city councils in Everett and Brier.

Gipson rose from an entry-level position at a Chevrolet dealership to work as its service manager. Later, he operated used car businesses and service stations and eventually worked for Snohomish County as an affirmative action coordinator.

Gipson has been an active member of the senior center for years.

The mayor and City Council first proposed changing the senior center’s name. The city’s historical commission approved it after finding the request met eight criteria that ensures the honored person improved the quality of life in Everett, said Dave Koenig, a manager in Planning and Community Development.

Workers will hang the new sign at the senior center sometime early next year.

Gipson said Thursday he’s honored by the recognition, even though he knows not everyone supports the change.

A petition circulated around the senior center opposing the idea. Gipson was sitting at lunch at the senior center when someone passed it to him. He’s not sure of the reason for the opposition but he said he suspects it may have to do with opposition to change. For Gipson, who was blackballed when he tried to join the Elks Club in 1977, the recent opposition also contains a whiff of something else.

“You never know when this kind of ugly thing breaks out in the open,” he said. “You think life is all beyond that but then in a flash you find out people never moved on.”

Koenig said support for the change was otherwise “very strong” from the community. Most people were concerned the initial proposal left out the word “senior.” Some seniors may simply not be aware of who Gipson is, he said.

“I don’t think this is anything against Carl,” he said. “I think it was more about being comfortable with the current name.”

Debra Smith: 425-339-3197, dsmith@heraldnet.com.

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