Atlanta's first human development commissioner dies

A former teacher who helped rebuild Atlanta's crumbling urban core while working for two Atlanta mayors and one U.S. president has died.

Davey L. Gibson rose from teaching in rural Georgia to become a high-ranking figure under mayors Sam Massell and Maynard Jackson. In the 1990s, President Bill Clinton tapped him to become a regional representative of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In that role, Gibson worked for nearly a decade to promote federal mortgage-assistance programs in neighborhoods with relatively low levels of home ownership in eight states and Puerto Rico, said Emma Newsome, a HUD operations specialist who worked for Gibson. She described him as a good listener and a cautious decision maker who tried to increase home ownership among minorities.

A native of Dawson in southwest Georgia, he started his career teaching in Pike County south of Atlanta, said his brother, Eric Gibson. He later became a principal there and then moved to administrative work in the Atlanta Public Schools. In 1968, he switched into management at City Hall and four years later Mayor Sam Massell appointed him director of Atlanta's Model Cities Program, said Rod Mullice, a friend and business partner.

Gibson channeled federal dollars into rebuilding apartments and commercial buildings in the city's deteriorating core. He worked on the area west of downtown and on the Grant Park neighborhood to the east, recalled Massell, who is now president of the Buckhead Coalition, a neighborhood advocacy group.

"He was ... a sterling example of unbiased service to the city," Massell said.

Gibson, 78, of Atlanta, died May 24, of lymphoma, his brother, Eric Gibson, said.

The funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at Radcliffe Presbyterian Church, 286 Hamilton E. Holmes, according to Atlanta funeral home Willie A. Watkins, Inc.

Gibson is survived by his wife Carolyn Gibson of Atlanta; brother Eric Gibson of East Point; sister Jacqueline Gibson of Austell; sons, Carson L. Gibson, of Atlanta, and Robert A. Caldwell, of Hampton, Va.; and eight grandchildren.

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