Tributes pour in for Everett civic leader Carl Gipson

A funeral and public memorial will provide chances to honor the leader, who died last week at 95.

Carl Gipson and his wife, Jodie, encountered discrimination during their early years in Everett. Carl went on to serve nearly 25 years on the Everett City Council. (Live in Everett)

Carl Gipson and his wife, Jodie, encountered discrimination during their early years in Everett. Carl went on to serve nearly 25 years on the Everett City Council. (Live in Everett)

EVERETT — As Carl Gipson’s family lays him to rest next week, people have opportunities to pay respects to the towering civic leader and civil rights pioneer who took principled stands against injustice over his many decades in public life.

Gipson’s contributions to Everett included 24 years of service on the City Council, a half-century as a church deacon and a lifelong record of volunteerism. He died Oct. 8 after a period of declining health. He was 95.

A viewing is planned Tuesday at Evergreen Funeral Home and Cemetery, followed by a graveside service at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park the next day. A memorial is planned Nov. 16 at First Baptist Church of Everett.

The public is welcome to attend all of those services, according to Gipson’s family. In lieu of flowers, they’re asking mourners to make donations to the Carl Gipson Senior Center Foundation.

His two surviving sons were on hand Wednesday morning as Snohomish County leaders passed a resolution in his honor.

“My father’s probably looking down upon us and saying, ‘What? Me?’” Ron Gipson told the County Council. “You see, my father wasn’t about recognition. He wasn’t about praise. He was about people — loving people. And that’s what he taught his sons, and the community in which he lived: Love, compassion and standing up for what is right.”

Ron Gipson, who also served two decades on the Everett City Council, asked that the county resolution be tweaked, to reflect his father’s legacy of love and compassion.

Carl Gipson, the grandson of a slave, was born in rural Arkansas in 1924.

He had lived in California before enlisting in the Navy in 1943. He served at Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island.

After the war, he settled in Everett, where he would start a family and a career as a small-business owner.

“He came back to this community because he saw something in Everett that he didn’t see in all of the other places he had lived,” his eldest son, Carlton Gipson, said Wednesday. “He saw something here in this community that told him there was a future here. … One of the few black individuals in this community, he had faced segregation and discrimination and all kinds of odds, but he made a life here for himself and his family, and ultimately for the community, he touched all kinds of lives.”

A former Brier City Councilman, Carlton Gipson also carried out the family tradition of public service.

Once he settled in Everett, Carl Gipson eventually became shop foreman at a car dealership, according to an essay on HistoryLink.org. He bought a house on Hoyt Avenue in the 1950s. He later owned and operated service stations, a car dealership, a tavern and restaurant.

He was elected to the City Council in 1971, and served through 1995.

Gipson also was a Boy Scout leader, Everett High School PTA president and a member of the Rotary and the General Hospital Board, among other volunteer engagements.

Today, Everett’s senior center and an achievement award from the local NAACP branch bear his name.

Among other accomplishments, the county resolution recognizes Gipson as the first African American on the Everett City Council and “a voice for those traditionally forgotten, fighting to ensure the city was livable for the elderly and those with disabilities.” The Navy vet also was “one of the main proponents of bringing the Naval Station to Everett.”

County Councilman Brian Sullivan met Gipson in his youth in the 1960s. As Sullivan entered politics in the 1980s, he sought out the senior statesman for advice. The councilman recalled growing upset after the Everett Elks Lodge refused Gipson’s membership in the 1970s.

“It created quite a stir in this community because he was such a kind and loving man, a giving man,” Sullivan said.

He said his own father was among those who withdrew his Elks membership in protest. “That was a big moment for me, the first learning experience about civil rights, and what’s right and what’s wrong,” Sullivan said, choking up.

Councilman Sam Low, who grew up in Everett, pledged to do everything he can to ensure the entire community, especially young people, “remembers what a great man he was and is.” That could happen through community service or scholarships.

“There were some things in the past that were not fair, that were not right,” Low said. “He had the right spirit and attitude. That’s something that all of us need to have.”

Through their grieving process, the outpouring of support from across the community has reminded Gipson’s family of his immense impact.

“I consider it a blessing to be a part of his life and him a part of ours,” Carlton Gipson told the County Council. “I couldn’t have asked for a better father. So thank you for this honor.”

Gipson is survived by his sons, Carlton (Sheila) and Ron (Shirley); six grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his middle son, Alex, and wife, Jodie.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

Carl Gipson, funeral and memorial services

Viewing: 2 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Evergreen Funeral Home & Cemetery, 4504 Broadway, Everett

Graveside service: noon Wednesday, Cypress Lawn Memorial Park, 1615 SE Everett Mall Way, Everett

Public memorial: 1 p.m. Nov. 16 at First Baptist Church of Everett on 1616 Pacific Ave.; reception to follow

More info: www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/everett-wa/carl-gipson-8883849

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