John Gibbons, the first African American United States Marshal of Massachusetts, has passed away.
A resident of Agawam, Massachusetts, Gibbons was a graduate of American International College (AIC) and went on to have an illustrious career in law enforcement. He received his undergraduate degree from the institution in 1977, a Master of Education in 1986 and was bestowed with an honorary doctorate in 2011. While attending AIC, he was an exceptional football player for the school's team the Yellowjackets and was inducted into their Athletics Hall of Fame in 2022.
Gibbons served as a part of the Massachusetts State Police department for over four decades and became a highly respected state trooper in the state. He worked toward causes that promoted the diversification of law enforcement to become a proper representation of the communities that they are sworn to protect. In 2009, President Barack Obama— along with a recommendation by the late Senator Edward Kennedy and senior Senator John Kerry—appointed Gibbons to become a U.S. Marshal for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which Gibbons considered to be his "dream job." This prestigious appointment led him to become the first Black Marshal in the state's history. He officially stepped into the role in 2010.
Gibbons was integral as a member of the Attorney General's Office to the FBI Western Massachusetts Gang Task Force. Before retiring, he notably oversaw the capture and trial of mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger in 2012, and in 2015 the trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Outside of the magnitude of his career, Gibbons, member of the Delta Chi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, was deeply invested in the welfare of his community in Western Massachusetts. He was a founding member of the state's National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE). A community servant and man of great faith, Gibbons was an Elder at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Presbyterian Church in Springfield, Massachusetts, one of the few historic Black churches in the city. He also mentored many in the community and was a role model for youth and adults.
In a statement, Domenic Sarno, the mayor of Springfield, Massachusetts shared: "First of all, I am so very sorry to hear about the passing of retired U.S. Marshal John Gibbons. My sympathy, thoughts, prayers, and encouragement go out to his wife Shelby, brother Ron, family and friends. I spoke with Marshal Gibbons not too long ago to see how he was feeling. Always the gentleman and a well-respected lawman. After a long and successful career with our state police, John became a trailblazer, as the first black U.S. Marshal for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Let’s not also, forget, he was one hell of a football player for American International College (AIC) too. Marshal Gibbons, John, your legacy of outstanding law enforcement and compassion will live on. May God rest your soul my friend."
Gibbons is survived by his wife and son— Shelby and Jonathan—his brother Ron, two sisters, his mother, a host of nieces and nephews and a community that was deeply impacted by his life and legacy.
We at EBONY extend our prayers and deepest condolences to the family and friends of John Gibbons.