Retired Clayton teacher McKibben a pioneer remembered for his kindness

Cassandra McKibben Dallas says when it came to her dad, there was nothing he wouldn’t do for his four daughters.

When she was in the girl scouts and her mother was working nights, George McKibben, a native of Forest Park in Clayton County, never hesitated to participate  in scouting activities with his daughter, even if that meant being the odd man out.

“Just to show how dedicated he was as a parent, every meeting that we went to, he would take me to that meeting and he would be the only man there,” Dallas said. “To be in a room of all women and little girls, he was still as friendly and as jovial as ever, and he would light up the room.”

That dedication also guided him through tough times in his early years as a math teacher in Clayton County Schools, his daughter Erika McKibben said.

It was the late 1960s and her father was one of the first black teachers in the predominately white south metro Atlanta school district. Not everyone was happy to see him, she said, recalling an incident in which someone is alleged to have written KKK on his classroom blackboard.

“He simply erased it and went on with class,” she said. “He eventually won everyone over and went from a teacher who nobody wanted to a teacher who everybody wanted to be in his class.”

McKibben, who also taught in Atlanta Public Schools, died April 7 after he lost his battle with the coronavirus.

Clayton County Schools posted a tribute to him on the district’s Facebook page on April 14, which would have been his 76th birthday.

“We offer our deepest condolences to the McKibben family,” the district wrote on behalf of the board of education and Superintendent Morcease Beasley. “We wish you all strength during this most difficult time.”

The district said McKibben began his career in 1967 at Jonesboro Junior High School, where he taught for 11 years. In addition, he assisted in opening Mundy’s Mill Middle School and drew the Razorback mascot on the hallway wall at the facility.

“During his first year, McKibben began to open doors that substantially eased the acceptance of black students and teachers in what had been white-only schools in the county,” the district said.

McKibben was a graduate of Albany State and member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. He met his wife-to-be, Alvanese R. McKibben, at the school and they would go on to have four daughters, including Adrienne McKibben-Halcomb and Stephanie C. McKibben.

“He was always smiling, even if he didn’t know you,” Erika McKibben said of her father. “He was always happy. He’s my hero.”

After leaving Clayton County, he taught math and English at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Atlanta while simultaneously driving buses for MARTA, Erika McKibben said.

“I remember those days because he would come home very late and I would try to stay up to see him,” Erika McKibben said.

He retired in 2001, but continued to go to class reunions to see how his students turned out.

He became ill in early March and was hospitalized at Emory Midtown by mid-month, Erika McKibben said. She, too, was hospitalized after she became sick, but she was diagnosed with pneumonia while he was told he had the coronavirus.

She was sent home on March 19, he was not.

“The thing that hurt was it was so fast,” Erika McKibben said. “We had hoped he would get out of it, but he just didn’t.”

Unlike other families, his wife and one of his daughter Cassandra were allowed to see him before he died. It was hard for the rest of the family not to hold his hand for the last time, but it was comforting to know he was not alone, Erika McKibben said.

Cassandra said her father touched many people during his life and that she is proud that his legacy will be one of love and kindness.

He also left her with warm memories.

“I remember one day when he was supposed to make us dinner, but the only thing he knew how to cook was breakfast food,” she said. “So we had pancakes for dinner one night. They were a little burned, but I knew he did his best so we ate them anyway.”