Sam Melville Gibbons (born January 20, 1920) is a politician from the state of Florida, who served in the Florida State House of Representatives, Florida State Senate, and the U.S. House of Representatives.
Early life and education
Sam Melville Gibbons was born in Tampa, Florida
on January 20, 1920, he graduated from Henry B. Plant High School
, where he was part of J ROTC, and then went on to the University of Florida
. He attained the rank of Major before entering the University of Florida School of Law, graduating in 1947 and joining 4 generation of his family practicing law in Tampa. He went on to marry Martha Hanley, and have three sons; Clifford Sam, Mark Hanley, and Timothy Melville. After 55 years of marriage and Martha's death in 2002, Sam married Betty King Culbreath. Sam resides still today in Tampa. His grandchildren are: Sam Brian, Martha Elizabeth, Hanley Walker, Carolyn Campbell, Cody Archbold, Justin and Jayne Ashby. The family includes numerous cousins including Father Robert Gibbons of St. Petersburg, nephews, and nieces as well as his wife Betty's 2 children and 2 grandchildren.
He then served in the United States Army
in World War II
as a captain of the 101 Airborne Division and earned a Bronze Star
.Gibbons took part in organizing the 101st and remained with them throughout the war. Gibbons entered the U.S. Army in 1941. At 1:00 a.m. on June 6, 1944, Capt. Gibbons, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, arrived by parachute near Carentan
on the Cotentin Peninsula
. Gibbons served in the European campaign to the end of the war and then returned to his home in Florida.On D-day, June 6, 1944 (He wrote "I was there" which has been translated into French) He was recently awarded the French Medal of Valor. On June 13, 1944, the main German forces counterattacked south of Carentan, in a battle between German tanks and the American paratroopers lasting all day, 6 am to 10 pm, the paratroopers gave ground, defending in depth, and bent but did not break before restoring the pre-dawn line of defense. Of the 600 paratroopers that began that day fewer than 400 soldiers remained. Gibbons could count a dozen burning tanks from his view of the battlefield. The battle was portrayed in Saving Private Ryan
. On June 30th the 101st was withdrawn to England becoming the first battle-tested troops to return. The 101st went on to successfully take the first bridge in the operation in the Netherlands
known as Operation Market Garden
(described in Cornelius Ryan
's book A Bridge Too Far
). In December 1944 the 101st was in reserve when orders came down to load up on trucks and move to Bastogne to hold and await resupply. Against very long odds the 101st held successfully with dwindling supplies, once famously telling the German commander "Nuts" in response to a surrender request. Several movies have been made concerning the "Battle of the Bulge." The 10st moved on to lead the way into Germany and eventually take Hitler's Eagle Nest before meeting up with the advancing Red Army
He is a member of the Democratic Party
and he served in the Florida House of Representatives
from 1953 to 1958. While in the state legislature, he spearheaded the effort to create the University of South Florida
. He then served in the Florida Senate
from 1959 to 1962.
Gibbons served in the United States House of Representatives from 1963 until his retirement in 1997. He was the chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means from 1994 to 1995. Gibbons's brief term at the helm of Ways and Means followed the sidelining of longtime Chairman Dan Rostenkowski as a result of scandals.
Prior to leading the full committee, Gibbons chaired the subcommittee on trade. He was much more supportive of trade liberalization throughout his career than most House Democrats, who have leaned toward protectionism since the early 1970s.]
Sam Gibbons has had a few verbal showdowns with the newly elected Republican congress in the mid 1990s. During a taped Ways and Means Committee hearing, Gibbons stormed off to the microphones explaining how the American children were being railroaded and given no time to speak. He compared the new Republicans to dictators and shouted that he had "to fight you guys 50 years ago," referring to Nazi Germany in World War II.