Friends Reflect On The Life Of Dr. Gilbert Mason, Sr.

Dr. Gilbert Mason, Sr. was never one to back away from a challenge.

"The two boys who were down in the neutral zone were Gilmore Fielder and Jimmy Longburg were being beaten, and I jumped out of my car and got in the fight," says Dr. Mason in a  February 1999 interview.

And he used that same passion to fight for what he believed in, whether it concerned civil rights or anything else.

That's how his friends, like District Attorney Cono Carana, say he will be remembered.

"Everything that commanded his interest, he wanted to be an expert in, and there were many things that caught his attention. Whether at the municipal level or planning commission meeting or at the state level going before the legislature or one of the commission's that they had on the constitution, he was always someone who was there who knew the rules of the forum and how to get things done," says Carana.

Felicia Dunn Burkes, who is the immediate past president of the Gulfport branch of the NAACP, knew Dr. Mason ever since she was a child.

She says he was a man of "firsts", including being the first African American chief of staff at Gulf Coast Medical Center as well as the first African American to serve on the coliseum commission.

"Dr. Mason was a man of intelligence, a man of integrity, a man of conviction. He stood on principle and he was unwavering in his commitment to see a better Mississippi and a better United States of America for all of us," says Burkes.

And according to Omera Baylor, his commitment to excellence extended to her and the rest his church family at First Missionary Baptist Church in Biloxi.

"He would get up and say whatever he thought. He'd get up and say, 'now listen, that's not the way that goes'. He'll correct you right on the spot. 'We don't tolerate that here'," says Baylor.

His friends agree that he will be missed, but he has left such a mark that he will never be forgotten.

"For I have done the state some service and they know it and the state of Mississippi knows that I have done some service," says Dr. Mason in an August 2000 interview.

Funeral arrangements for Dr. Gilbert Mason, Sr. have not yet been announced.