Just because you know politicians doesn't mean you should support them

"I am a student at TTU in sociology (criminal justice) hoping to persue [sic] a career in law enforcement at some level and would like to work with the police to get practical experience -- only absent from work 1 day for illness in the past 5 years."

District Attorney General William E. Gibson, Jan. 20, 1976

COOKEVILLE -- During his first term as district attorney general, William E. Gibson has been busted spending public money to pay his staff's professional taxes; spent thousands of public dollars painting his name on the side of his office; used public money to reprint state-prepared training manuals so that they would bear his name.

Gibson publicly lashed out at a judge who, other lawyers said, ruled properly in a case Gibson argued poorly but then tried to cover up for his shortcomings.

He is, to let the vernacular go for a moment, in a "urinating contest" with his predecessor, now-U.S. Attorney John Roberts, over whether a man with blocks tied to his body jumped to his death or whether the deceased was murdered. Gibson said it was suicide; Roberts had the chutzpah to challenge that.

Stupid mistakes?


But according to public records available from Cookeville not surprising. Of course, many of us -- this writer included -- could have done better in the earlier years of our education. But killers, rapists, violent criminals are not our responsibility

That Bill Gibson, the "Red-headed woodpecker" as some call him, got to be district attorney in the first place is a remarkable achievement for someone who barely made it out of high school.

When he applied for a job as radio dispatcher with the Cookeville Police Department in 1976, Bill Gibson had been a $1.60 an hour cook at the Holiday Inn, and before that a dishwasher for three years.

A "D+" student who graduated from Putnam Senior High with a 1.66 grade point average two years earlier, Gibson had gone on the Tennessee Tech as a "regulated admission" and managed to earn a C+ average by the time he applied to the city for employment. With references of "Mrs. Jared Maddux (TTU Admissions and Records), Mr. H.S. Barnes (attorney) and Lonnie Hill (Asst. Mgr. Holiday Inn)," Gibson  apparently was hired at $450 a month nearly immediately after his application was presented, city records show. The records do not indicate whether he took any tests, any references were contacted or an employment interview was carried out.

Twenty years later, Bill Gibson's tumultuous ride as the Thirteenth Judicial District's top prosecutor has drawn attention to his capabilities in office.

Gibson's college transcript, obtained by The Pit, shows that of the six Ds Gibson received in his first seven grading periods at TTU, two were in American history; the others were in science and English literature.

In those same periods, Gibson was graded an A in Freshman Orientation, Horsemanship, Reading Improvement, Military Science and Internship in Criminal Justice.

Among the total 11 "A" grades Gibson received in his bid for an associate of science degree, four were in Military Science (one credit hour each), one in "workshop in education," one in "Community Resources" and one in "Treatment Methods."

In his role as the district's top prosecutor, Gibson's job performance is the toggle switch that gets killers off the streets, robbers behind bars, rapists convicted and arsonists indicted.

A Putnam Pit customer once pulled his clothing store's advertisement from this paper after an article critical of the DA ran. He said, "Bill Gibson is my friend."

Well, sir, when the day comes that being your friend constitutes professional, competent, honest performance in public office, that argument may have some merit. Until then, it is a sign of the mentality that gets and keeps people with marginal skills in power.