Thelma Vernell Anderson Gibson
Thelma Vernell Anderson Gibson is the sixth of fourteen children born on December 17, 1926 to Sweetlon Counts Albury Anderson and Thomas Theodore Anderson. She is a native Miamian and the widow of the late Reverend Canon Theodore Roosevelt Gibson.
Thelma received her formative education at Coconut Grove Training School for Colored Elementary School, Coconut Grove Junior High School, and George Washington Carver High School, from which she graduated in February 1944. After graduation, Thelma attended Saint Agnes School of Nursing at Saint Augustine’s College, Raleigh, North Carolina and graduated in August 1947, as a Registered Nurse with a speciality in operating room techniques. She then returned home with hopes of working at Jackson Memorial Hospital in the operating room where she had been approved for a position. However, upon realizing that she was of Color, the alternative was to work on the Colored wards.
Thelma continued her education in nursing by taking an advanced course from Florida A & M University taught by Dr. Mary Carnegie, Dean of Nursing, in a classroom provided by Jackson Memorial Hospital. In the summers of 1954/55, while preparing to work in Public Health Nursing, Thelma took advanced courses at Catholic University, Washington, D.C. Continuing on, during the summers of 1956/57 she attended the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where she took courses in cancer and communicable disease nursing. From there, she took courses given through the University of Miami in 1957/58 out of the home of an instructor who lived in Coconut Grove at the corner of Main Highway and Lennox Avenue. A course was also provided at Booker T. Washington Senior High School. Finally, in 1959, Thelma attended Teachers College at Columbia University, New York and earned her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing education.
Thelma’s professional career extended thirty-three years: first, as a Staff Nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital, 1947-49; Clinical Nurse, E.J. Hall Clinic, Miami, Florida, 1949-50; Staff Nurse, Gallinger Memorial Hospital, Washington, D.C., 1950-51; Staff Nurse, Jackson Memorial Hospital, 1951-55; Public Health Nurse, Dade County Health Department, 1955-59; Head Nurse and Nursing Supervisor, Riverside Hospital for Teenaged Drug Addicts, New York City, 1959-1963; Nursing Supervisor, Dade County Health Department,1963-67; and, Nursing Supervisor and Part-time Social Worker at Mount Siani Hospital,1967-80.
For more than fifty years, Thelma has been a trailblazer in education, mental and physical health, community and professional leadership, volunteerism and service to her church, community and family. In August of 1997, she was appointed as Interim City Commissioner and served on the City of Miami Commission through November 1997.
Thelma holds memberships on numerous boards, committees, and panels. Some include; President of the Theodore Roosevelt Gibson Memorial Fund Inc., Founder of the Women’s Chamber of Commerce of Dade County, “GUTS”(Grovites United to Survive), “BIDCO” (Black Investors of Dade County), Jackson Memorial Foundation Incorporated, Trustee University of Miami, Trustee Public Health Trust Jackson Memorial Hospital, Coconut Grove Cares, Mental Health Association, United Home Care Services, Women’s Guild University of Miami, Jewish Home for the Aged, Friends WRLN, Bi-racial/Tri-ethnic Committee, Visiting Committee School of Continued Studies University of Miami, Visiting Nurses Association of Miami Dade County, Life Member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and Charter Member Nu Chapter Chi Eta Phi Sorority, Inc. (National Nursing Society).
Thelma has received many honors, awards, recognitions, and certificates. She counts her membership as a Founder of the Jewish Home for the Aged, among one of the highest, as this honor resulted from the generosity of Judge Irving and Mrs. Hazel Cypen. Additional honors include; the Silver Medallion awarded by the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ), the Jewish Home and Hospital Women’s Auxiliary Sacred Heart Award, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Drum Major for Justice Award, and the Jackson Memorial Hospital Image Committee Award.
The most recent accomplishment to Thelma’s credit is authoring her autobiography, Forbearance, Thelma Vernell Anderson Gibson, The Life Story of A Cocoanut Grove Native, that was released in the Fall of 2000. Mrs. Gibson also sponsors the Gibson Health Initiative housed at the Theodore R. Gibson Building that provides free testing and assistance for HIV and AIDS infected persons. Her latest project is the Theodore and Thelma School of the Performing Arts located on Grand Avenue in Coconut Grove where the students receive academics with a focus on the Arts.