Amoz Everett Gibson, first black member of the Universal House of Justice.
Instructor: Richard N. Francis
© Copyright 1993, 1998 by N. Richard Francis
Amoz Everett Gibson was born in Washington D.C. to Deborah and William Gibson on August 3, 1918. His father had trained for the ministry at Howard University and became a Christian Science healer. In 1912, while attending a spiritualist meeting, was directed to a Bahá'í meeting that was being held in the same building. After hearing Mr. Harlan Ober speak for five minutes, Mr. Gibson embraced the Faith. That same evening, his mother also accepted that Baháulláh was the return of Christ. *
Amoz often attended children's classes and went to Feast with his father. Because of few youth activities, he didn't enroll in the Faith until 1944. He received his education in the Washington public schools and in 1940, graduated from Miner Teachers College (now the University of the District of Columbia) with a B.Sc. in education, majoring in social studies. He married a schoolmate, Mary Elizabeth Lane in 1941. While being employed at the Washington Navy Yard, he was inducted into the United States Army in 1944. He served his military duties in Europe and in the Pacific on Okinawa.
Returning home in 1946, he became an active member of the Washington D.C. Bahá'í Community. He was elected to the Local Spiritual Assembly of Washington D.C. and served as treasurer and later as chairman. He was also on regional committees and was elected as national convention delegate.
He traveled to Mexico with his family, falling in love with its people; two years latter, with the aid of veterans education and rental income, earned a Master's Degree, summa cum laude, in geography from Mexico City College (now the University of the Americas). He continued to work in the education field as a teacher, first at Browne Junior High School, then later as head teacher at Blow School Annex to Browne; eventually, he became a teacher of geography at Miner Teachers College.
In 1952 he and his wife resigned from their jobs and along with their three children, William, Kenneth and Donald, packed up their belongings and pioneered to the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona and New Mexico. Having no jobs, they stayed with James Stone, a pioneer to Gallup, New Mexico. Amoz washed cars for a living. One day one of his customers, having learned of his situation, immediately arranged an interview for him with the director of the Gallup office of the Bureau of Indian Affaires. Within a week, he arrived with his family in Pinon, Arizona, near the center of the Navajo Reservation and close to the Hopi Reservation; it was an ideal pioneering location.
First, he made friends and adjusted to educating older children who had never had any formal education before, most of them speaking very little English. A visit by Meherangiz Munsiff and her daughter, Jyoti set the stage for the first Bahá'í study class. The first Navajo tribe member to become a Bahá'í was Sadye Joe, in 1957.
Amoz was a member of the American Indian Service Committee and encouraged others to come to the reservations and pioneer. The physical conditions were primitive, the roads were bad, the weather was often difficult, encouraging a strong sense of unity and cooperation among the Bahá'ís and their neighbors. His fourth child, Nancy was born.
In 1960, Amatu'l-Bahá Ruhiyyih Khanum visited the reservation, arousing the interests of its citizens; they became aware that the Bahá'i Faith was of international importance. Others soon entered the Bahá'í Faith, notably Chester and Franklin Kahn and their families. Their desire to share the message of Bahá'u'lláh lead to a large gathering of Indians at Pine Springs. Several thousand Indians met with the Hand of the Cause of God Dhikru'lláh Khadem, who with his loving spirit brought everyone close to Baháulláhs teachings; in just two days, over 100 declared.
During 1959, Amoz was appointed to the Auxiliary Board for protection; and in 1960, he was elected to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States. He traveled extensively and even represented the United States during the dedication of the Bahá'i Temple in Uganda in 1961, taking the opportunity to teach the Faith in villages near Kampala, making lasting friends among the African believers.** He served on several different committees and also traveled to Jamaica and Haiti.
Amoz took a job in Wingate, New Mexico to teach English, residing in Gallup. In 1960, he was appointed the new principal of Bread Springs Day School.
In 1963, Amoz attended the first International Convention in Haifa, and was elected to the first membership of the Universal House of Justice. His family was at that time, under the instructions of Ruhíyyih Khánum, making plans to pioneer to Africa. Thus, the transition was already underway, and leaving their beloved Navajo Indians was not a difficult move. Amoz took up his duties and was appointed convener of the Department of Holy Places, he eagerly pursued his duties.
Inspired by the writings of Baháulláh, he used his vacations to travel-teach and stimulated the friends in Holland, France, Italy, Mexico and the United States, particularly in the southern states and on Indian reservations.
In 1978, he traveled to the Cradle of the Faith, Iran, visiting Shiraz, Tehran, Isfahan, and Tabriz; he even viewed from outside, Fort Tabarsi. He continued his travels that same summer in the United States, taxing his strength to the utmost.***
"He urged the friends to concentrate their efforts, to select one person to pray for and to teach, to shower with love and gifts. He volunteered to take back to the Holy Land the names of those people and pray for them in the Shrines. He pleaded for pioneers, named the countries where they were needed and entreated the friends to seize the bounty of assisting Baháulláh." 1.
Amoz became ill while visiting San Francisco in August 1980, and upon returning to Haifa, his illness was diagnosed as acute lymphoblastic leukemia. During treatment, he underwent a year of complete remission; he often showered the medical staff at the clinic where he was being treated with love, gifts, and brought them flowers. When his leukemia reactivated, he knew that the end was near. He decided to make one last visit to each of his children who by then were pioneering in different parts of the world. He was able to visit the Mother Temple of Australia at Antipodes. He then went on to New Zealand for Nancy and her husband, Jonathan, then to the United States, and in Oakland, California, visited Kenneth and Chehreh. Albuquerque, New Mexico, he visited Cheryl, Don, Lanya and Marla. In Washington D.C. he was joined by Bill. This was all accomplished by his will and determination, assisted by prayers.
He was no longer able to fulfill his duties and resigned from the Universal House of Justice after faithfully serving it for nineteen years. His wife described his last days: "It seemed he had little desire to remain on this plane of existence. Despite this, out of compassion for those around him, he compelled his spirit to shine brightly and gladly till the very end." 2.
Amoz Gibson passed away on May 14, 1982 in Haifa, just after having the bounty of praying in the three Holy Shrines with his wife, four children, one of his daughters-in-law and two of his three grandchildren.
* See Bahá'í Teaching Deepening Series, Louis G. Gregory.
** See Bahá'í Teaching Deepening Series, Enoch Olinga.
*** Amoz Gibson visited Reno, Nevada on June 12, 1978, presenting a talk at the Holiday Inn, 1000 E. 6th Street. The author met Amoz Gibson at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport and with Frank Esposito **** and Allen Almo, had lunch at Lyons on South Virginia Street.
**** Frank Esposito and his wife Barbara pioneered to Bermuda in 1981 where he became one of the first elected members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Bermuda.
1. The author personally gave Amoz Gibson several names of family members and acquaintances for payer requests at the Holy Shines, including those of Catherine Hammit- Thomas of Carpenteriea, California, presently pioneering in Uruguay; Thomas Grant, now pioneering in Japan: Naomi Fine of Santa Cruz, California, Dr. Christie Bonds of Reno, Nevada (then working at the Bahá'í World Center), Valentine and Elsie Francis ( grandparents, now deceased) of Chico, California, and parents Norman and Lois Francis of Quincy, California.
2. The quotation was taken from The Bahá'í World, vol. XVIII, p. 666. In Memoriam