John Frank Gibson, Jr., son of Ruby Juanita Watkins Gibson and John Frank “Mutt” Gibson, Sr., was born on February 8, 1940, in Dermott, Arkansas. He died on November 22, 2020, after a short illness of cancer.
John Frank grew up in Dermott with a tight group of friends he remained close to throughout his life. Although his childhood was spent roaming the bayous and woods of the Delta, he was a bit of a bookworm and used to read the Encyclopedia Britannica on Saturday nights when his friends had dates. One of his biggest regrets was not going to see Elvis Presley perform at the Dermott High School. He thought 25₵ was too much to pay to see an unknown singer with a name like Elvis, but he spent the rest of his life trying to imitate Elvis’s dance moves.
He graduated from Dermott High School in 1958, served as vice-president of his class, and was the editor of The Ram’s Horn, the school yearbook. His passion for the law and civic duty began early, with his attending Arkansas Boys State in 1957, the same year he was voted Most Likely to Succeed by his graduating high school class. He also served as a page for Arkansas Senators John L. McClellan and William Fulbright in the U. S. Senate while attending the Capitol Page High School at the Library of Congress in Washington, D. C. Although he was somewhat scrawny in stature and suffered from asthma throughout his childhood, that did not stop him from joining the football and basketball teams. In addition to his “amazing” athletic prowess, he also tapped into his artistic abilities as he won a state art contest with a sketch of his dog. After he graduated from high school, he attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he received a degree in accounting and was a walk-on for the UA track team.
John Frank attended law school at Ole Miss, receiving his Juris Doctorate in 1966, after which he began practicing law with his father at Gibson Law Office in Dermott. He served as the legal counsel for the Dermott School District and the general counsel for the Arkansas Soil and Water Conservation Commission. In 1974, he established the law firm of John F. Gibson, Attorney-at-Law, where he conducted his law practice for the next fifty years. While serving on the Red River Compact Commission, he was instrumental in urging the Arkansas General Assembly to enact legislation to authorize the development of the Arkansas State Water Plan to ensure future water needs. This landmark legislation authorized the Arkansas Water Development Fund to finance identified projects for this fund, which to date has financed over two billion dollars in water and sewer infrastructure.
John Frank was elected to be Prosecuting Attorney for the 10th Judicial District, which includes Chicot, Desha, Drew, Ashley, and Bradley counties. However, he was most fulfilled defending the rights of persons accused of criminal offenses. He developed a specialty in DUI cases, hence his license plate “DUILWYR.” John Frank was a fierce advocate for his clients in the courtroom but enjoyed close relationships with opposing counsel and witnesses outside of work. Many police officers credit him for making them better at their jobs and John Frank received many career recognitions, including the Monticello Police Department 2020 Citizen of the Year. John Frank worked until his last days and never retired because he was dedicated to his clients and would gladly accept tomatoes, crawfish, or yard work as payment.
Outside of work, his interests were varied and many. He loved all things outdoors, including hunting and birding, as well as fishing as far north as Alaska and as far south as the Amazon River. He became an adventurous gardener later in life and smuggled hot pepper seeds from a trip to Peru to be planted and harvested for his famous barbeque sauce and chili. He also loved growing Bradley and Cherokee tomatoes and cooking wild game specialties. He was an avid Razorback fan, always early to the game so that he could commandeer the perfect tailgate spot for his family and friends. He fancied himself quite the dancer and his years of imitating Elvis paid off when he and Renee won Dancing with the Stars at a Drew Memorial Hospital fundraiser. He loved his local community and supported the UAM Boll Weevils, serving as a legal representative for various athletes, as well as a coach for the annual Green/White games. He officiated high school football games all over the state during the ‘70s and ‘90s. His fascination for horse racing led him to the purchase of a racehorse, which he questionably boasted was a descendant of Secretariat.
His many friends were very important to him and he cherished golfing, gambling, and carousing with his buddies. John Frank loved to tell people how to drive; he fished out of his treasured pirogue among the cypress trees and occasional alligator on Bayou Bartholomew; he made his own fishing poles out of cane; he met a baseball coach on a plane who said, “come visit me at Spring Training someday,” so he did; he hunted deer while temporarily blind; he named a wren that regularly visited him on his carport.
The most important thing to John Frank was family and he would brag about them to anyone who would listen. He was happiest when surrounded by his children with grandbabies in his lap and Renee at his side. John Frank is survived by his wife of thirty years, Renee Treadwell; his brother, Charles Sidney Gibson of Dermott; his five children, Jody Gibson Cummins (Bud) of Little Rock; Jill Odell Gibson (Eric Lochner) of Portland, Oregon; Jamie Gibson Kirley (Wes) of Little Rock; John F. Gibson, III (Nazli) of Monticello; and Caroline Gibson Jones (Austin) of Benton, seventeen grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and his first wife, Judy Hardin Gibson – although they divorced years ago she remained like a sister to him.
The funeral service following Covid-19 guidelines will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, November 28, 2020, at First United Methodist Church with Lori Fallon officiating. Masks will be required for entry.
Memorials may be made to UAM. To give via phone, text ‘JOHNFGIBSON’ to 41444. To give online, go to the following link: igfn.us/form/uwNN_A or mail to Cody Reaves, Assistant Athletic Director for External Affairs University of Arkansas at Monticello Department of Athletics, P.O. Box 3499 Monticello, AR 71656.