The Historian's Spotlight - Billy Gibson
BY PATRICK DAVIS
Each time I talk with people and read information about them in preparation for the Spotlight article, I am humbled and impressed by their stories. Billy Gibson’s story is no exception. Many of you see and have seen Billy attending local, national and international FBINAA events and are familiar with his kind and calming manor. I am honored to present his story below.
Billy was born in the late 1930’s in the town of Pageland, South Carolina, and spent his early years on the family farm in the nearby small town of Mt. Croghan. During World War II, the family moved to Charleston South Carolina where his father worked in the Naval Ship Yard.
In 1946 the family moved back to their farm home where they constructed and operated a community grocery store. Billy commented that being raised on a farm has so many benefits, and even though it is a hard life, there is so much to learn that you could not experience in any other way. In 1948, their home was consumed by fire taking his father's life. Billy was ten years old at that time. After the fire, he and his mother moved into a barn located behind the store and stayed there for two years. They had a well for water and an outhouse for their rest room, there was no electricity in the building. While it was a rough couple of years, Billy found it to be most interesting and learned a lot about life during this experience. He recalls waking up one morning with snow covering his bed and states “while there were hardships, he and his mother made the best of the situation and grew stronger in their resolve to succeed in life.”
During those two years they were able to construct a new home by disassembling a farm house on the property and, using that material, framed their new home. In addition to attending school, Billy drove a school bus. The state paid student drivers $25.00 per month for driving and a $35.00 bonus at the end of the school year, if you didn't have a wreck. Big bucks at that time! Billy would also work on the farm in the afternoons. At the age of 16 he graduated from Mt. Croghan High School and became a full-time farmer as well as assisting his mother in operating their country store.
For fun, Billy learned to play the guitar. In l955 he became part of a band called "The Cardinals." They began as a country music band but moved onto Rock and Roll under the influence of Elvis, Chuck Berry and many other stars.
Also during this period of time, the US Air Force Defense Command started a volunteer Ground Observer Corp program to monitor aircraft throughout the US. The family country store was selected as one of the sites for monitoring, and the Corp enlisted fifty-five volunteers in the area to participate in the program. That's when Billy became involved with Air Force personnel, which would later result in his joining that branch of service. In 1959, after the program was deactivated, Billy made the decision to join the Air Force. He disbanded his band, sold all the equipment, and in April 1959 became an airman. This move changed his life forever. His hope and plan was to become an Air Traffic Controller, complete his four year term and return to the farm where he would secure a job at the Charlotte, North Carolina Airport as an air traffic controller and live happily ever after.
As fate would have it, his plan was short lived when he learned that the Air Force did not need any air traffic controllers, and he was assigned to the security service branch. Upon requesting information concerning the program, he was told "We don't know, it's top secret." After completing basic training, Billy was transferred to Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo, Texas to receive advanced security training. He completed the training with the highest GPA in the class and, as a result, was provided a list of possible duty assignments given first choice on where he would like to relocate. The list of sites included, England, Scotland, and other choice assignments. However, being a farm boy, Billy chose Alaska with visions of moose, caribou, bear, and salmon fishing. Other class members thought he was crazy, but he was excited. Billy reflects that this assignment would prove to be the best choice for him, as it was in Alaska that he met and married his wife, Phyllis. When he first noticed her, she was a participant in the Miss Alaska pageant. He later discovered that they attended the same church. It was at church that they became acquainted and the rest is history. Their fifty-five year joyous history includes two children, three grandchildren and one great grandchild with another on the way.
After completing his four year commitment to the Air Force, Billy and Phyllis returned to the Gibson farm in Mt. Croghan. Shortly after returning to South Carolina, he became a member of the Chesterfield County Sheriff's office as a Deputy Sheriff. Billy worked with that agency for twelve years and during his tenure with them was selected to attend the 93rd session of the FBI National Academy.
In the early 1970's the GI bill was put back into operation, and with this opportunity Billy secured his degree in Criminal Justice from the University of South Carolina. In l976 he became Police Chief of the Pageland, SC Police Department and remained with that agency for six years. During his tenure with that department, the agency received the Southern Bell Award of Excellence as the most outstanding law enforcement agency in S.C. It was the first small agency ever to have ever received this award.
Billy served as Director of Public Safety for the Town of Chesterfield South Carolina for one year. For the next sixteen years he worked at the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy; starting as the Field Training Director and moving positions up to the Academy Director position before retiring December 31, 1999.
In l994, the National Academy secured office space at the FBI Academy and employed its first Executive Director, Les Davis a retired FBI special agent. One of Les’s first tasks was to select people for the role of Secretary/Treasurer to take care of the day-to-day business in the respective sections of the Association.. Billy was selected to serve for Section III. The four secretary/treasurers were responsible for running the daily operations of their section. They collected annual dues, distributed annual membership cards, and wrote newsletters to each Chapter, as there was no Association Magazine at that time. They maintained their own bank account's to deposit the dues collected and to pay all bills received from their Section representative and other board members. They also played an important role in the Annual Conference preparation as well as provide support for all board meetings at the Academy.
The four secretary/treasurers served in those positions for a four year term and were then re-appointed to another term with the goal of working themselves out of a job. This would happen two years later, and it was at the 2001 NA Annual Conference conducted in Charlotte, NC where they had accomplished their mission and the positions were abolished. Recognition for their outstanding contributions to the National Academy Associates consisted of a proclamation, engraved NA rings and a gold lifetime membership card.
It was during this conference that the Executive Board recognized the need for the Association to have a chaplain and Billy was tapped to develop and implement that program. He gladly accepted that assignment and over the next thirteen years we enjoyed reading his articles (Chaplain's Corner) in each issue of our Associate Magazine.
During his tenure as Chaplain, he conducted memorial services for 1,104 NA graduates at our Annual Conferences and is so grateful that only five of those deaths were by adversarial action. He fondly recalls the many times that he had the opportunity to offer counsel to NA members and, in most cases, was able to assist them with whatever matters they were experiencing. In 2013, Billy retired from the Executive Board and assisted with the selection of his successor, Chaplain Dan Bateman.
As he looks back over his career in law enforcement, he proudly feels that he made a difference by his contributions. One of which, was assisting people in avoiding prison, my guess is he did this through counseling and example. He considers the highlight of his career as attendance at the National Academy which contributed greatly to his professional success. He cherishes the many friends he’s made through the NAA and stays in contact with many of them on a regular basis.
Billy and Phyllis continue to live in Columbia, South Carolina and maintain and operate the family farm in Mt. Croghan; the couple also owns and operates a travel agency and has many opportunities to travel the world.
In October of last year, Billy had quadruple by-pass open heart surgery from which he has recovered fully. He feels very strongly that what failures he has experienced in life were of his own making and his successes are attributed to his faith in and service to God.
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