|Ernest W. Gibson Jr.|
|Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Vermont|
|Appointed by||Harry S. Truman|
|Preceded by||James Patrick Leamy|
|Succeeded by||James L. Oakes|
|67th Governor of Vermont|
January 9, 1947 – January 16, 1950
|Lieutenant||Lee E. Emerson
Harold J. Arthur
|Preceded by||Mortimer R. Proctor|
|Succeeded by||Harold J. Arthur|
|United States Senator
June 24, 1940 – January 3, 1941
|Preceded by||Ernest Willard Gibson|
|Succeeded by||George D. Aiken|
|Born||Ernest William Gibson Jr.
March 6, 1901
Brattleboro, Vermont, U.S.
|Died||November 4, 1969
Brattleboro, Vermont, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Dorothy P. Switzer
Ann H. Haag
|Alma mater||Norwich University
George Washington University Law School
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Unit||43rd Infantry Division|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Legion of Merit
Ernest William Gibson Jr. (March 6, 1901 – November 4, 1969) was a Vermont attorney, politician, and judge. He served briefly as an appointed United States Senator, as the 67th Governor of Vermont, and as a federal judge.
Born in Brattleboro, and the son of a prominent Vermont political figure who served in the United States Senate, Gibson graduated from Norwich University in 1923, attended The George Washington University Law School, and attained admission to the bar in 1926. A Republican, he served in several elected and appointed positions in state government. When his father died while serving in the Senate, Gibson was appointed to temporarily fill the vacancy, and he served from June 1940 to January 1941.
A veteran of the Army Reserve and Vermont National Guard, during World War II, Gibson served in the South Pacific and on the staff of the War Department, and received several decorations for heroism. In 1946, he ran for Governor of Vermont and defeated the incumbent in the Republican primary, the only time this has ever occurred in Vermont. He went on to win the general election, and won reelection in 1948.
Gibson served as governor until accepting appointment as judge of the United States District Court for the District of Vermont; he remained on the bench until his 1969 death in Brattleboro. He was buried at Morningside Cemetery in Brattleboro.
Gibson was born on March 6, 1901 in Brattleboro, Vermont, the son of Grace Fullerton Hadley and Vermont Senator Ernest Willard Gibson. He attended the public schools and graduated from Norwich University in 1923, where he was a member of the Alpha chapter of Theta Chi International Fraternity. He attended The George Washington University Law School and was admitted to the bar in 1926. While studying law he also taught at the New York Military Academy in Cornwall, New York and worked as a mathematician on the Coast and Geodetic Survey.
Gibson began practicing law in Brattleboro in 1927. A Republican, he was State's Attorney of Windham County from 1929 to 1933; assistant secretary of the Vermont State Senate from 1931 to 1933; and secretary from 1933 to 1940.
While serving on the Senate staff, Gibson was part of a network of acquaintances who were all lawyers, Republican party activists and National Guard members. In addition to Gibson, this group included: Leonard F. Wing; Harold J. Arthur; Murdock A. Campbell; and Francis William Billado.
Gibson was appointed to the U.S. Senate by Governor George D. Aiken on June 24, 1940, filling the vacancy caused by the death of his father, Ernest Willard Gibson. The younger Gibson served from June 24, 1940 to January 3, 1941, but did not run in the election to fill the vacancy. He was succeeded in the Senate by Aiken, a family friend. Political observers assumed that Gibson accepted the temporary appointment to facilitate Aiken's election. Knowing that Aiken desired to become a Senator, Gibson accepted the appointment and agreed not to run in a primary against him, which another appointee might have done. Gibson was willing to fill the vacancy temporarily and then defer to Aiken because Gibson hoped to serve as Governor.
From January to May, 1941, Gibson was Executive Secretary and later Chairman of the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies (the William Allen White Committee), which advocated for aid to the Allies prior to United States military involvement in World War II.
A longtime member of the Army Reserve and Vermont National Guard, Gibson served in the South Pacific as G-2 (Intelligence Officer) with the 43rd Infantry Division. He later served on the Intelligence staff at the War Department.
While serving in the Pacific Theater, Gibson was wounded. A newspaper photo showing him having his head bandaged after he was wounded was circulated internationally, along with a caption identifying him as a former Senator, and he gained a measure of fame as a result.
When John F. Kennedy and his crew from PT-109 were rescued, the coconut shell Kennedy used to send a message asking for help came into Gibson's possession. Gibson later returned it to Kennedy. Kennedy had the shell preserved in a glass paperweight, which was displayed on his Oval Office desk during his presidency. It is now on display at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, Massachusetts.
In 1946, Vermont political observers expected Leonard F. Wing, the commander of the 43rd Division during the war, to run for Governor. The unanswered question was whether incumbent Governor Mortimer R. Proctor would run again, or would defer to Wing for the Republican nomination, then tantamount to election in Vermont.
Wing died in December 1945, soon after returning home from the war. Without Wing in the race, Gibson was free to announce his candidacy. Proctor decided to run for reelection, creating a rare Republican primary contest.
Gibson, an internationalist and a progressive, argued against the Republican status quo. Making the case against unwritten party policies including the Mountain Rule and the limitation of Governors to two years in office, Gibson appealed to war veterans and younger voters, calling for action over inertia, saying "Under this rule a relatively small clique of people choose governors nearly 10 years in advance, supporting them up a series of political steps to the highest office."
(According to the Mountain Rule, which had existed since the founding of the Republican Party in the 1850s, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor candidates were identified years in advance, and alternated between the east and west sides of the Green Mountains. Governors were limited to two years in office. U.S. Senators were also allocated based on the Green Mountains—one from the east and one from the west. As a result of this party discipline, even after the advent of primary elections and the direct election of Senators, Republicans won every statewide election in Vermont for more than 100 years.)
Gibson defeated Proctor and won the general election in 1946, in what was called "a repudiation by Vermont voters of political practices and traditions that have been long established – a rebellion, not against outright mismanagement and inefficiency in the state government at Montpelier, but rather against the inertia and lack of aggressiveness of administration policies."
Frustrated at dealing with a Republican Vermont General Assembly and party structure that was more conservative than he, Gibson contemplated an early exit from the governorship rather than trying for a third term.
The opportunity came when Judge James Patrick Leamy of the United States District Court for the District of Vermont died in 1949. President Harry S. Truman nominated Gibson for the position. Gibson was confirmed in 1950, and served until his death.
In 1956 Gibson was appointed a Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army. The Civilian Aide program uses prominent individuals in each state and territory to promote goodwill between the civilian population and the Army by ensuring that the public is aware of ongoing Army projects and programs.
During Gibson's time on the bench his law clerks included M. Jerome Diamond and James M. Jeffords, who clerked for Gibson from 1962 to 1963. According to Jeffords, a lesson imparted by Gibson played a role in Jeffords' decision to leave the Republican Party in 2001, which changed control of the United States Senate. As related by Jeffords, Gibson once paid closer attention to the facts than the letter of the law in order to arrive at a just outcome in a tort case involving skiing. When Jeffords questioned Gibson's approach, Gibson said "Never let the law get in the way of justice; justice is what counts." Jeffords further stated that he reflected on this quote often when considering decisions, including his decision to leave the Republicans.
In 1969 Gibson headed a committee to investigate the 1968 “Irasburg Affair,” in which an African American minister was targeted by a campaign to force him out of Vermont. This effort included police harassment as well as an anonymous individual firing gunshots into the minister’s home. Gibson's commission found fault with local and state authorities, including members of the Vermont State Police.
Gibson died in Brattleboro on November 4, 1969 and was interred in Brattleboro's Morningside Cemetery.
His son Ernest W. Gibson III (born 1927) served as a Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court. His daughter Grace Gibson Newcomer (born 1930) was a professor at Westchester Community College. His son Robert H. Gibson (1931-1999) served as Assistant Secretary of the Vermont Senate from 1963 to 1967, and Secretary from 1967 to 1999. His son David A. Gibson (1936-2010) served in the Vermont State Senate from 1977 to 1983, and was Senate Secretary from 2000 to 2010.
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|United States Senate|
Ernest W. Gibson, Sr.
|U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Vermont
1940 – 1941
Served alongside: Warren R. Austin
Mortimer R. Proctor
|Governor of Vermont
Harold J. Arthur
James Patrick Leamy
|Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Vermont
James L. Oakes