1. Born on Nov. 7, 1916, and raised in Jacksonville, Fla., George Gibbs moved to Rochester (for an IBM job) in 1963.
2. A World War II Battle of Midway veteran, Gibbs was one of 40 U.S. Navy sailors--out of 2,000 applicants--selected to sail with Adm. Richard Byrd for a South Pole voyage from 1939 to 1941. He was the first African-American to reach Antarctica. He spent a full year on the continent, and survived 90-below-zero temperatures, months of 24-hour darkness, and “dinners of seal meat and dehydrated vegetables” (Gibbs’ contingent were some of the first to the relatively new invention of dehydrated and concentrated goods).
3. In 1974, Gibbs was denied membership into the Rochester Elks Lodge, allegedly because of his race. The story drew national attention, and, according to most accounts, Gibbs was eventually responsible for helping break the color barrier for Rochester service clubs.
4. He died in Rochester on Nov. 7, 2000, his 84th birthday. In 2002, the city renamed West Soldiers Field Drive (from the west side of Soldiers Field from Seventh Street Southwest to Sixth Avenue Southwest) to George Gibbs Drive S.W. In 2008, Rochester named its new elementary school for him.
5. George's wife, Joyce, a longtime area educator and community leader, described what it was like for a Black family living in Rochester in the 1960s. "I say it was like living in a fishbowl. We were a novelty. There were seven African American people out of 37,000. ... My husband went to work every day (at IBM) and I knew things were not easy for him. But I had decided when I lived in Hawaii and had been left out of a CPO Wives’ Club that I either get in there and try to live my life or I suffer in silence. There were many, many incidents in Rochester. But I decided that if I’m sitting here and you’re sitting here, and you’re uncomfortable, then you go."