Tommy Gibbons By George D. Blair
To any follower of boxing's history the name of Tommy Gibbons will eventually come up, usually regarding his heavyweight championship fight with Jack Dempsey. However, there is much more to story of Tommy Gibbons. In viewing films of some of his fights, especially in slow motion, you will find for a heavyweight he was an excellent defensive boxer. In my youth I heard much from my father who did some boxing in the same era, about the famous Gibbons Brothers, Tommy and Mike. I find as I research them that he was right about their greatness.
The story of Tommy Gibbons has to start at the beginning and that takes us to the Emerald Isle of Ireland. Their father, Thomas Gibbons was born in County Mayo where he wed a young Irish lass. Four Gibbons children were born in Ireland, Mary, John, Patrick and another daughter [Bridget ]. The elder Gibbons sought a better life of his family, so in the 1880s the entire clan sailed to America like many other Irish of the time. They came to St. Paul, Minnesota which had a large Irish population and settled down. The father went to work for the Great Northern Railway and the family moved into a newly purchased house.
[Tim Gibbons explained that the Gibbons family first lived on Burgess St. which was Mike and Tom's boyhood home. Later Mike bought a home on Como Blvd. and Tom at 1517 Goodrich. These three homes were in St. Paul.]
Three more children were born in St. Paul, Michael, Thomas, and Alice.
Tommy was born on March 22, 1891 and grew up in the Irish tradition. Brother Mike was a wrestler first, then took up boxing. Young Tommy admired Mike and was very interested in his brother's fistic career. After finishing high school Tommy entered St. Thomas College in St. Paul where he completed two years. The lure of boxing however, compelled young Tom to quite school and embark on a boxing career of his own. The year was 1911.
The future ahead for Tommy Gibbons would see him win fame, not only in the boxing ring but in public service. Both would bring him great rewards along with the appreciated of his friends and neighbor for his unselfish contributions to the community and the people who lived there. The first record of Tommy Gibbons has been matched by few other boxers. Even though he was an exceptionally gifted boxer, he fought for several years in the shadow of his legendary brother, Mike. Deserved recognition was extremely slow in coming to him, even though he had a sensational record that saw him fight for eleven years without an official defeat stretching over 84 fights.
Gibbons had his first recorded fight on September 5, 1911 in Minneapolis. Boxing had been outlawed in Minnesota in 1892 so boxing then was of the sneak variety and sometimes right under the nose of authorities. Gibbons first opponent was a pugilist by the name of Oscar Kelly. Oscar was knocked out in the fifth round. Tommy's second match also took place in Minneapolis, the date was October 2nd with Gibbons knocking out one Colored Brown in the fifth heat.
Tommy Gibbons started as a middleweight, fighting in that division for several years with an occasional venture into the light heavyweight ranks. Too keep active and away form the long arm of the law, Gibbons headed for the east coast to further his career appearing in several bouts in the New Your, Philadelphia, Buffalo area from 1912 through 1914, along with several appearances in Hudson and Superior, Wisconsin.
Through 1914 Gibbons had already fought some very highly regarded opposition such as Young Mike Donovan (ND10), K.O. Brennan (ND10). George "K.O." Brown twice (2_ND10), Buck Crouse (KO4), Bert Fagan (KO2), Billy Glover (KO6), Jenny Denning (ND10), and Johnny Shaw (KO3). Gibbons was already being recognized by the fight crowd as a future star.
In 1915 with several fistic contenders coming from Minnesota, the state yield to public sentiment and legalized boxing with the no decision rule and limiting matches to ten rounds. The site for the for first legal show in twenty-three years was the St. Paul Auditorium on July 12, 1915. The headline bout that evening pitted tow of St. Paul's future all-time greats against each other, Tommy Gibbons and Billy Miske.
Several thousand paid their way into the area suffering in a sweltering heat it view the action. Captain Frank Whitmore was named the referee. A fast pace was set at the opening bell as the fight developed in a see-saw battle over the first six rounds. The superb boxing and dazzling footwork of Gibbons enabled him to take control. A slashing right caught Miske in the sixth opening a cut over Billy's right eye. At the end of the ten rounds, it was Gibbons with the edge and the newspaper reporters in attendance gave Gibbons the newspaper decision.
Gibbons returned to action on November 16th again in St. Paul against the great "Pittsburgh Windmill" Harry Greb in a ten round no decision bout. Once again it was the superior boxing skills of Gibbons that dominated the fight giving him another newspaper decision victory.
Tommy engaged in only four bout is 1916, three of which took place in Winnipeg, Canada, all of which were twelve round no decision affairs. In those matches his opponents were Gus Christie, and Joe Herrick twice. His other fight saw him make a ten round verdict over Vic Hansen in St. Josephs, Missouri.
Gibbons was rapidly outgrowing the middleweight as 1917 dawned. He occasionally ventured into the light heavy ranks appearing against Bob Moha in Milwaukee, Bur Kenny in New York, and Jackie Clark in Scranton in no decision bouts. Manager Eddie Kane was about to arrange a world light heavyweight championship match with title hold Barney "Battling" Levinsky to take place at the St. Paul Auditorium on March 23rd over the ten round no decision route. For Gibbons to win the crown he would have to kayo Levinsky.
A good sized crown turned out producing a gate of $7,983. The left jab of Gibbons was at its best with Tommy ding the leading while the highly touted left of Levinsky was not in evidence and the champion showed no aggression during the entire contest. It was Gibbons who won eight of the ten rounds with the first and seventh heats deemed to be even. Several times the crown go on the champion for playing it safe, trying to bring him out of the shell he had chosen to fight in. Only in the eighth did he make an attempt which Tommy took advantage of scoring with a hard left that put Levinsky back into his shell. After the fight, Levinsky admitted that Tommy Gibbons was the cleverest boxer he ahd ever faced. Gibbons received a newspaper decision over Levinsky but the crown remained on the head of the champ.
With the paper win over Levinsky, the status of Gibbons rose and on April 12th he was back in New York for a return no decision meeting with Burt Kenny. World War One was under way in Europe and many young men were being drafted into military service and Gibbons got his call for a pre-military physical checkup. On August 13, 1917 Gibbons had his physical by the Seventh Divison draft board in St. Paul. To everyone's surprised he as conditionally reject because of a double hernia and varicose veins. For some reason he was called a "slacker", or as it was known in later years, a draft dodger which of course was not true.
On August 22nd he was back in ring action taking a ten round newspaper decision over George Chip, and followed that up with a fifteen round verdict over Gus Christie in Dayoton, Ohio After the Christie fight, Gibbons underwent surgery to correct his physical ailments. After recover, manager Kane scheduled nine fights for Tommy over the first four and a half months on 1918. None of the fights were easy marks, as he whipped George Chip three times, St. Paul's Clay Turner twice, Silent Martin twiche and Gus Christie twice. During this period, Gibbons had a second Army physical and passed, so he was awaiting his call to serve.
In early May he was called into the Army, one of his duties was that of boxing instructor. Back in civies in 1919, he was meeting the likes of Bartley Madden, Len Rowlands, George Chip, Billy Miske, George "KO" Brown, Mick King, and others without suffering an official defeat. In 1920 Tommy continued to meet some of the best like Bob Roper, Clay Turner, Hugh Walker, Chuck Wiggins, and others. On May 15th Gibbons met Harry Greb for the second time, only the site the time was Greb's hometwon of Pittsburgh. It was the superior boxing of Gibbons that carried him to a ten round newspaper win over Greb. It was the second paper verdict for Gibbons over the tough Greb. Harry wanted a rematch after losing before his home folks, so they met again in Pittsburgh on July 31st. It went into the record books as a no decision but it was Greb who this time captured the paper win.
The year 1921 was the year he finally received the attention that his gifted talents would have brought him many years as he was emerging from the shadow of his great brother Mike. Growing into a heavyweight, Tommy had 24 fights that year, scoring 20 knockouts, ten of which came in the first round. Gibbons had developed a heavyweight punch and some of those Tommy Kayoed that year were fighters like High Walker, Porkey Flynn, Jack Clifford, Willie Meehan, Dan O'Dowd, Clay Turner and Willie Keeler while traveling the eastern half of the country. At age thirty, Tommy Gibbons had arrived, recognized as a top contender.
Gibbons open up 1922 by knocking out Pat McCarthy in the fourth round at Boston. A fourth meeting with Harry Greb was arranged for New York's Madison Square Garden over the fifteen round route on March 13th. The Gibbons camp felt that the added weight of Gibbons would tire the smaller Greb over the longer distance. A hug crowd of 11,897 paid a gate of $118,762 to see a great fight. After fifteen rounds of back and forth fighting, it was the aggressive Greb that came away with the official decision. Tommy Gibbons had been handed his first official loss since he started back in 1911. For this match, Gibbons received what was his largest purse to date in this career, $17,500.
Knockout of Harry Foley and Sailor Martin followed. Gibbons felt is was time for a vaction and he took the summer off, returning to the ring on October 13 to meet hometown rival and friend from St. Paul, Billy Miske, in New York's Madison Square Garden. Tommy was a concerned man at the time because during the summer that had just passed, his father, Thomas Sr. had become very ill and was not expected to live. Tommy had he New York commitment however, so he left St. Paul for the meeting with Miske.
Several thousand New Yorkers turned out to see the two superstars from St. Paul cross gloves in the big city, paying out $39, 392 for the privilege. In the seventh round, a telegram came to ringside and was given to manager Eddie Kane. The wire was from Mike Gibbons and contained the news that the elder Gibbons had passed away from stomach cancer. He was 72 years old and strangely enough had never seen either of his two famous sons in the ring.
Kane read the telegram and put it in his pocket, deciding not to tell Tommy until after the fight. Gibbons, however, sensed that something was not right as the fight progressed, affecting his concentration. The fight came to a sudden ending in the tenth round when Billy claimed a foul. The referee agreed and declared Miske the victor handing Gibbons his second official defeat.
Gibbons left New York as soon as he possibly could, returning to St. Paul for his father's funeral. He was back in action though on the 13th of November kayoing George Ashe in one following that ended up with a seven round knockout of Joe Burke in Buffalo on December 11. Four days later Gibbons was back in St. Paul where he won the newspaper decision over his local rival Billy Miske. He started 1923 by scoring three knockouts, Jim Tracy went in two. Andy Schmader in one and veteran Chuck Wiggins was starched in the ten round in New Orleans.
In the Spring of 1923 a small group in the small Montana town of Shelby headed by the mayor, Jim Johnson, came up with an idea of how to publicized their town which was supposed to be rich in oil. Their idea was to stage a world heavyweight championship fight on July 4th in Shelby, featuring champion Jack Dempsey defending his title. Their selection to meet Dempsey was the man considered to be the top contender, Tommy Gibbons of St. Paul
They knew they would need help in not only arranging the fight, but also in promoting it, so the group contacted St. Paul businessman Moses Zimmerman who, in turn, called on Minneapolis promoter Mike Collins. Collins listed to the idea and considered the idea and the Shelby people crazy. After several meeting with Collins, Zimmerman finally persuaded him to make a trip to Shelby -- after a hefty advance payment that is. After meeting with all concerned and looking over the site, Collins finally agreed to join them in the title fight venture.
Returning to St. Paul, Collins contacted Jack Kearns, the manager of Dempsey about the proposed meeting with Gibbons in Shelby. Kearns listened and then told Collins he wanted a purse of $300,000 and training expenses of $150, 0000. Kearns figured with those demands he would never hear from Collins again, After conferring with the people in Shelby, Collins again contracted Kearns with the offer of a $300,000 purse but only $10,000 in training expenses.
A meeting of all concerned parties was held in Chicago at which time Kearns laid his demands on the table. He wanted the entire purse of $300,000 paid before the fight and agreed to a three payment deal; the Shelby group agreed. Now they had to get Gibbons name on a contract so Johnson, Zimmerman, and Collins met with Gibbons and his manager, Eddie Kane in Minnesota. After much discussion Gibbons and Kane accepted a deal of fifty percent of the gate receipts after Dempsey had been paid his $300,000. The promoters figured the gate to be at least a half million which would give Gibbons around $100,000 plus a crack at the title.
With the deal sealed, promotion of the event began. To bring fight fans from around the country to the little town of Shelby, twenty-two trains were arranged for and the word went out about the Dempsey and Gibbons meeting. The first payment of $100,000 plus $10,000 expense were paid to Kearns on time.
Back in St. Paul Gibbons and Kane got their group of sparring partners together and along with Tommy's family, they packed up for the trip to Shelby. At the Union Railroad Station in downtown St. Paul a crowd of $1,500 put on a spectacular going away celebration as Gibbons left for his meeting with the kayo punching Dempsey. Mayor Nelson presented Tommy with a good luck rabbit's foot along with a large floral horseshoe from his many admirers. The tale behind the rabbit's foot, according to Mayor Nelson, was that it was the left hind foot of a buck rabbit, killed at midnight in an Alabama cemetery under a fool moon. Nelson said the foot was given to him by a southern black man and he had very good luck since it came into his possession.
In Shelby the training camp of Gibbons was set up very near the outdoor arena. While Tommy and his family stayed in a house provided for them, the rest of the entourage lived in two large tents at the training site. Gibbons put on daily training session for which he charged and so put a few exhibitions in nearby towns. Meanwhile, the promoters were unable to come up with Dempsey's second payment on $100,000 on the due date of June 1, making that installment in mid-June.
On June 28th the entire population of Shelby as well as out-of-town visitors filled the arena for the Shelby stampede and Blackfoot Indian show where Tommy Gibbons was to be made a member of the Blackfoot tribe. Tommy's wife, Helen and his children were in attendance for the ceremony. There were a lot of bucking broncos and hat-waving cowboys when the sound of tom-toms were heard. The show stopped at that point. A procession of Indians entered the area with Chief Curley Bear at the front and at his side, decked out in headdress, buckskin jacket, and legging heavy beaded with lots of color was Tommy Gibbons.
After marching the entire length of the grandstand, they moved to the middle of the arena where Chief Curley Bear spoke an Indian prayer calling on the gods to make Tom Gibbons strong and victorious. Gibbons was given the name "Thunder Chief." The ceremony concluded with Tommy shaking hands with all the braves as they crowded around him. Tommy was then taken back to the Indian village to change back into his clothes.
The group promoting the fight had relied on advance ticket sales to provide Dempsey's final $100,000 payment. They could not make it on time as they had only taken in $60,000 on the day it was due. In the early morning hours of July 2nd, Kearns called off the fight. The twenty-two special trains were immediately cancelled. A few hours later, Kearns changed his mind and decided to go through with the fight after had been paid what had been taken in. It was now too late to shave the show as the special trains could not be rescheduled and ticket orders from out-of-town ceased when word got out about Kearns calling off the fight.
At fight time the specially built Shelby Shell with 50,000 seats had a disappointing 7,202 paying customers. The gate was only $201,485 all of which went to Dempsey in advance. Several gate crashers had pushed their way into the arena and he surrounding hills were dotted with Indians taking in the fight. As the two fighters were in their corners, a man, a local oil man, was seen handing over several oil land leases to the Gibbons corner. Tommy Gibbons knew he was fighting for nothing but a chance to wing the heavyweight championship.
The Gibbons strategy was to keep Jack back on his heels by employing a powerful offense, not an easy task. During a wild exchange in the first round, Dempsey scored with a solid right that hurt Gibbons, forcing him to clinch until his head cleared. It was Jack's Sunday punch however, that Tommy was still there. Dempsey did not fight a clean fight at all as he attempted to score a knockout landing blows on separations on clinches as well as hitting Gibbons in the groin on several occasions, and there were no foul protectors in those days.
Gibbons more than held his own from the sixth through twelfth rounds with Dempsey coming on strong in the last three rounds to pull out the decision. Dempsey had not only not scored a knockout, he had failed to score even one knockdown and had to work to win the verdict. Tommy Gibbons had surprised everyone by taking Dempsey the entire fifteen rounds without really being hurt at any time. The town of Shelby had been seriously hurt as Dempsey and Kearns left the town bankrupt and broke.
On July 5th, Gibbons received a telegram from the Seattle office of the Pantages circuit offering him a fourteen week vaudeville engagement that would pay him $50,000. Gibbons later accepted the offer. Tommy did not leave Shelby empty-handed, however, even though he had received no purse money. He received $5,000 for training daily, $2,500 training expenses, $2,500 he charged fans for viewing his training sessions, and $5,000 for exhibitions in Conrad, Havre, and Great Falls, Montana, plus the oil land leases.
Tommy, his family and entourages returned to St. Paul on the morning of July 4th and on had to meet him on the railroad platform of the train depot were over 4,000 friends, admirers and fans. As the Oriental Limited pulled in they clogged not only the big depot building but spilled out onto Fourth Street. Gibbons was carried out of the building on the shoulders of some of the men there and when he appeared a loud cheer went up. One of the first to reach Gibbons was a childhood chum of his, Father T.E. Printon. Also on hand were the Governor, city and state politicians, businessmen, policemen, and of course, a host of relatives.
It was time for a parade though the city streets in a big car covered with flowers. An automobile moved along the streets both side were lined with adoring fans and people cheering from the windows of buildings along the route. Tommy and his wife were driven to their Garden Street home for a short period of time. Then they were off to the Town and Country Club for a breakfast attended by family members and close friends. After eating and a short talk to those at the club, it was off to St. Paul's Como Park where thousands more waited to see and hear Tommy. Next stop was the state capitol in a parade that extended nearly a mile. It was a show of total respect for Tommy Gibbons.
Gibbons was then taken off on his vaudeville tour with ring appearances but on the back burner. His next ring showing took place in St. Paul on January 15, 1924 which was a four round exhibition with another St. Paul great an former sparring partner Jimmy Delaney. The auditorium show was a benefit for the family of Tommy's old hometown rival and friend Billy Miske who had passed just two weeks before. Gibbons and Delaney wanted to be on this show as they both knew the Miske family well. The show drew a large house as other top pugilists like Pinkey and Richie Mitchell and Dago Joe Gans were also on the card. After expenses the promoters turned over $7,553 to Mrs. Miske.
Even though he hadn't bee active, Gibbons was still rated on top of the heavyweights when he had made his return in March of 1924. In a period of twenty days he knocked out Jack Moore, Joe Downey, Soldier Lee and Jack McFarland. A big match was arranged with French George Carpentier in Michigan City, Indiana for May 31st. A huge crowd of 30,000 filled the outdoor arena paying $250,000 to see the action. Tommy's purse for this appearance would be $61,781, his largest pay of his career at the time. Gibbons handled the Frenchman rather easily taking on a ten round newspaper decision over Carpentier.
On August 9th Gibbons made his only trip across the ocean for a boxing match. Manger Kane arranged a big fight in London, England with the top heavyweight in England as well as Europe, Jack Bloomfield. Gibbons was guaranteed $50,000 for the Bloomfield match. Tommy sailed off to England to continue his training. Gibbons became extremely popular with the English fans while he was there.
Shortly before the fight, the promoters came to Gibbons and told him that they could not pay him the $50,000 that he was promised; they would only be able to pay $25,000. Gibbons could have refused to fight at that time if he had chosen but said the $25,000 was alright and that he would go on with the fight as planned. It turned out to be as easy outing for Gibbons as he gave the British fans at the outdoor site and Bloomfield, a day to remember as he put on a terrific exhibition of clever boxing, then in the third round showed his punching ability by knocking out Bloomfield.
After seeing a bit of England, the Gibbons entourage boarded the liner Olympic for the trip back to the States. Upon his arrival in New Your he was met by several reporters who main question was why he had fought for only half of what he had been guaranteed. Tommy Gibbons explained, "If we'd been like some American fighters and walked out when we did not get what was coming to us, ti would have meant the end of boxing in England. There has been too much crying about greed for money in the boxing game, particularly abroad where they think American fighters are money made. I could not play them a mean trick by quitting for a few thousand dollars." This was typically Tommy Gibbons.
He returned to the resin pit in October for two bouts, kayoing Bill Reed in three and Ted Jamison in one. A December trip to New York sawn him flatten tough veteran Kid Norfolk in the sixth round before 13,000 customers. He opened 1925 by knocking out Jack Burke in six, three weeks later Tiny Jim Herman bit the dust in three rounds at Detroit.
In March of 1925, Gene Tunney gave Harry Greb a sound pasting in the St. Paul Auditorium. After the fight, Greb told Tunney he was now ready to meet Tommy Gibbons whom Tunney had to defeat to get a crack at Jack Dempsey and the heavyweight title. Tunney and his people went to New York in the hopes or arranging a match with the Gibbons. Offers were made and the thirty-four year old Gibbons knew this was his chance to make some money; he accepted after lengthy talks for a purse of $110,000, his largest payday of his career. The date in New York's Polo Grounds was set for June 5.
Gibbons did most of his training in St. Paul at brother Mike Gibbons' Rose Room Gym in the Hamm Building's lower level where he had plenty of excellent sparring partners to work with. In April of 1925 Tommy's wife Helen entered St. Joseph's Hospital suffering from a nervous breakdown. With a number of children at home and his wife in the hospital, there was plenty of pressure on Tommy as he prepared for the Tunney match. The time arrived for Tommy to go to New York to complete his training so he had to try to leave his problems behind.
A turnout of 23,750 fight fans were on hand at the Polo Grounds to see the top two contenders and boxing masters finally cross gloves. The fight was a close affair until age and 106 previous fights caught up with Tommy Gibbons and Gene Tunney was able to administer the first kayo of Gibbons in the twelfth round. Gibbons knew after the knockout loss that is now time to hand them up but at least he got the lion's share of the $161,166 the fight had drawn.
After the fight, Gibbons met with reporters and told them that he was retiring not only because of the kayo loss, but also due to the serious illness of his wife Helen, who had become ill while he was training fir the Tunney fight. He said hew also influenced by the fact that his brother Mike had lost the sight in his right eye. He was stilly highly-rated and could have continued to make several hundred thousand dollars, however he had decided to retire.
Back home his wife Helen was not told that her husband had suffered the first knockout loss in his career in New York. For her own health she was told his fight had ended in a draw. When Tommy returned home he told his wife the truth about the fight and that he was quitting the ring for good.
[According to Tim Gibbons, Tommy Gibbons' grandson, his grandfather said that he had exactly 106 fights.]
After hanging up the gloves, Gibbons went to work for a major insurance company in St. Paul as an agent. He became highly successful selling millions of dollars of insurance. In 1929 Tommy and his wife made a gift of $50,000 to the Catholic Church to construct a church in Osakis, Minnesota where they had maintained a summer home since 1915. Thanks to the Gibbons' the Church of Immaculate Conception was built there. IN 1930 Pope Pius XI conferred on Gibbons the insignia "Bene Merentl" for conspicuous contributions to citizenship, education, and religion, The insignia was in the form of a gold medallion and presented to Mr. And Mrs. Gibbons at St. Cloud, Minnesota.
In 1934, while still an insurance agent, he entered a different type of ring, the political right. At the urging of several friends, he decided to run for Sheriff of Ramsey County which the city of St. Paul was a major part of. At this time the reputation of St. Paul was very sordid as it had been a haven for years for every big-time crook in the country. The likes of John Dillinger, Alvin Karpis, Tommy Toughy, Volney Davis, the Barker gang and all the other gangsters as well could be seen on the city's streets even thought they were wanted criminals throughout the country. Deals with local law authorities let these crooks live freely in St. Paul as long as they did pull any jobs in the city.
The gangsters couldn't contain themselves tough and during this reign of crime there were two of the nation's most sensational crimes. The kidnappings on the streets of St. Paul of William Hamm and William Bremer got everyone's attention. A ransom of $300,000 was paid for Bremer, and $200,000 for Hamm to secure their releases. All deals were now off
The people of Ramsey County had enough of this and on election day the people remembered that Gibbons had been an honest, straightforward and tough fighter, and the county voters elected him to the office of the sheriff.
Before his election, Gibbons had told his old boxing buddies and other he knew who ran drinking emporiums that he intended on enforcing the law if elected. True to his word, Gibbons and his deputies conducted several raids on these places when they were breaking the law and old friends or not, off they went to the slammer. The gangsters also know that there were no deals to be made with his tough new sheriff. He meant business.
Along with the cooperation of the F.B.I. and city police, the sheriff's department started capturing hoods like Karpis, Verne Miller, Davis, Doc Barker, Harry Sawyer along with other crooks. The nearly captured Dillinger in a shootout on Lexington Ave only to have the nation's number one crook get away. When caught, these gangsters were housed in Sheriff Gibbons jail for safekeeping and to prevent their escape from others on the outside. None were able to pull off an escape. It didn't take long before St. Paul was once more a clean city in which to live.
In 1939 Gibbons organized the first Jr. Sheriffs School Police in the country, a concept that evolved throughout the country and eventually all the world. Tommy Gibbons established a sterling reputation of honesty and integrity, receiving several awards in his lifetime. In 1941 he received the coveted St. Paul Cosmopolitan Club's 13th annual distinguished service medal for meritorious service. He was crowned King Boreas in 1946, presiding over the annual St. Paul Winter Carnival. He was named Father of the Year in 1941, 51 and 52 He was also named one of Minnesota's 100 most illustrious citizens in 1942 ads well as being made a Knight of St. George and St. Gregory. Gibbons was elected to the Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame in 1963. Tommy was also very active in boys clubs, 4H, school police activities and Parent Teacher Associations while he was serving as sheriff.
In January of 1940, Mrs. Gibbons, the former Helen Constance passed away after being seriously ill for six years. She was only 46 years old. Tommy would later marry Josephine Leinenkugel of Wisconsin.
Gibbons retired from the sheriff's office on January 1, 1959 after 24 years of services. There was a testimonial dinner for Tommy in St. Paul on February 24th where a large crowd of 1,5000 admiring friends and neighbors paid tribute to him. In attendance at the dinner was the former boxing opponent Jack Dempsey who had flown in from New York for the occasion. In a speech to the crowd, Dempsey heaped high praise on Tommy, not only as a boxer, but a public official as well.
Tommy Gibbons retired with wife Josephine to the family home at 1609 Garden Street in St. Paul, enjoying his children and grandchildren. His fistic career embraced a recorded 107 bouts; there were most likely more during the illegal eras that never made it into the record books. Of those 107 fights, he officially won 57 while losing only 4, drawing in one and with one no contest. There were 44 no decision bouts. Tommy scored 48 knockout and was kayoed only the one time in his final fight. He met five men who held world championships, Jack Dempsey, Battling Levinsky, Gene Tunney, George Carpentier and George Chip. His 84 fights without an official loss is not exceed by many other boxers in sports history.
On November 19, 1960 Tommy Gibbons passed way in St. Paul at the age of 69. Tommy had nine children by his first wife, Thomas Jr., Jack, Richard, Mark, Jerome, Gregory, Peter, Mary and Veronica, plus the three children his second wife had when she married Tommy. He was survived by his sister Alice Schlager and thirty-two grandchildren. Funeral services for Tommy were at the Willwierscheid Mortunary in St. Paul with burial at Calvary Cemetery.
With the multitude of friends he made over the years, Tommy Gibbons drew a full house right up to the end.. He had built a reputation as a boxer and law enforcement officer of respect and honesty, the kind of reputation that most other can only dream of achieving over a lifetime. A truly great man was Tommy Gibbons of St. Paul.
[Facts in brackets are contributed by the Gibbons family (Tim Gibbons)]