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Memorial service to be celebration of Sam Gibbons' life, son says

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 04:56 PM
TAMPA -

The memorial later this month for former U.S. Rep. Sam Gibbons is expected to be well-attended and spotted with high-profile political and civic figures.

It won't, however, be a somber event, said Gibbons' son, Cliff.

"It's going to be an upbeat event where friends and family can get together, pick up the pieces and keep running," Cliff Gibbons said. "His motto: Treat others like you want to be treated and get the job done."

The memorial will be held at 11 a.m. Oct. 20 at Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church, where the former congressman was a longtime member.

The service will be open to the public — the same way Sam Gibbons, a lifelong Democrat, believed government should be run, said Cliff Gibbons.

"Everything that Sam Gibbons had ever done had always been open to the public and this is no different," Cliff Gibbons said. "We hope to have everyone who was touched by him."

More than 600 people are expected to attend. The courtyard will be open and the memorial will be broadcast over speakers for the overflow crowd outside, said the Rev. John DeBevoise, pastor of the church, 3501 San Jose St.

DeBevoise will officiate the service with Sam Gibbons' nephew, the Rev. Robert Gibbons, a Catholic priest based in Pinellas County.

"It's a celebratory time," DeBevoise said. "Celebrating the gift of this good man's life."

National, state and local dignitaries are expected to attend, however a VIP section at the service isn't being planned, Cliff Gibbons said.

"It's going to be wide open," Cliff Gibbons said. "The most important thing is to have this for the people of Tampa."

Sam Gibbons was born in Tampa in 1920. He was a decorated World War II hero who was elected to the state Legislature, and then to U.S. Congress in 1962. He represented the Tampa area in Washington until he retired in 1997.

He played a role in many important developments in the area: the University of South Florida, James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital, Tampa International Airport and the Interstate 75 bypass. Nationally, he helped establish the Head Start program and develop civil rights legislation.


jpatino@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7659 Twitter: @jpatinoTrib

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