Shirley Gibson, First Mayor of Miami Gardens, Passes Away at 79

Shirley Gibson, First Mayor of Miami Gardens, Passes Away at 79

Miami Gardens is mourning the loss of a pioneering figure, Shirley Gibson, who played a significant role in establishing the predominantly Black city and later served as its first mayor. Shirley Gibson passed away on Monday evening, just days after suffering a brain hemorrhage. Her daughter, Tiffany Wimbery-McMillan, confirmed her passing at the age of 79.

A Champion for the Next Generation

Shirley Gibson’s legacy goes beyond her political career; she was a resilient and devoted advocate for younger generations. Her daughter, Tiffany Wimbery-McMillan, described her as someone who believed in empowering and respecting younger individuals, listening to their views, and considering their opinions. Gibson firmly believed in preparing the next generation to carry the torch of leadership.

In addition to her daughter, Shirley Gibson is survived by her son, Robert Wimberly Jr., and four siblings. She was preceded in death by one sibling.

On Tuesday evening, flags in Miami Gardens were flown at half-staff as a tribute to the late mayor.

Memorial Services and Viewings

Memorial services to honor Shirley Gibson’s life will be held on Tuesday, October 24, at New Way Fellowship and Praise Worship Center, located at 16800 NW 22nd Avenue in Miami Gardens. A viewing will also be held on Monday, October 23, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., followed by proclamations and resolutions from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

From Camilla, Georgia, to Miami Gardens

Shirley Gibson was born in Camilla, Georgia, and moved to the Florida Keys with her parents when she was just 10 years old. Her journey to Miami Gardens was marked by transitions, as her family relocated to the Liberty City area before ultimately settling in the Carol City area, now known as Miami Gardens. This community is the largest predominantly Black community in South Florida, and Shirley Gibson played a pivotal role in its establishment in 2003.

Gibson, the oldest of six siblings, referred to the move as a “tremendous transition” that shaped her experiences in South Florida. She believed in the power of connection and was known to say, “If I can break bread with you, I can begin to look at you in a way that we probably can be friends.”

A Dedicated Public Servant

Shirley Gibson’s journey from a Miami-Dade police officer to an elected official culminated in her tenure as the mayor of Miami Gardens from its inception in 2003 until she termed out in 2012. Her commitment to education was evident in her pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice in 1981 and a master’s degree in pastoral ministries earlier this year. In 2013, she received an honorary doctorate from the university.

David Armstrong, President of St. Thomas University, emphasized Gibson’s significance, saying she was “a pillar of everything that is necessary to build a successful city.” He further noted that she was a friend and a shining example of the impact regular citizens can have on the betterment of their community.

Shirley Gibson was not only dedicated to her career but also to her family and community. She actively participated in the Miami Norland Senior High School Parent Teacher Student Association.

Pioneering Miami Gardens

As mayor, Gibson worked tirelessly to instill a sense of pride and ownership in the city. Her efforts included community cleanups, road improvements, and enhanced landscaping. She believed that these improvements were necessary for the city to thrive and prosper, stating that businesses, churches, organizations, and nonprofits all took ownership. Gibson was instrumental in making Miami Gardens a vibrant community, and her work led to the creation of the city’s premier concert event, Jazz In The Gardens.

The incorporation of Miami Gardens was an act of self-determination, as many residents felt that their tax dollars were not being put to good use by the county government. Gibson faced numerous challenges during the incorporation process, including opposition from Wayne Huizenga, the then-owner of the Miami Dolphins. Intimidation from the county also posed a significant hurdle.

Miami Gardens Councilwoman Shannon Campbell, who was encouraged by Gibson to enter politics, described her as a visionary who saw potential in others. Gibson encouraged individuals to be open to learning and shared her wealth of knowledge.

An Enduring Legacy

Shirley Gibson’s passing has deeply impacted the community. Miami Gardens Mayor Rodney Harris referred to her as a pioneer and visionary, emphasizing her legacy of leadership and dedication to the city. She will be remembered for her empowerment of the next generation.

Shirley Gibson’s devotion to mentoring and youth extended to her involvement with the Embrace Girls Foundation, an organization that provides support and mentorship to girls in Broward and Miami-Dade County schools. Just before her passing, she participated in a panel for the foundation’s International Day of the Girl Forum.

As the community mourns her loss, Shirley Gibson’s legacy will continue to inspire and uplift the next generation, embodying her belief in the importance of preparing young leaders to serve their communities.

A celebration of her 80th birthday had been planned for December 17, coinciding with the Embrace Girls Foundation’s “Intimate Holiday Evening” event at the Casino at Dania Beach, which will proceed as a tribute to her memory.

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