Sunday - Dr. Gilbert Mason Day In Biloxi - - The News for South Mississippi

Sunday - Dr. Gilbert Mason Day In Biloxi

The memorial service for Dr. Gilbert Mason was upbeat. The family man, doctor, scholar, civic and civil rights leader was not one for sadness. 

Biloxi Ward 2 Councilman Bill Stallworth says, "He just didn't like solemn occasions. He was a man full of life, full of energy." 

Hundreds of people who respect Dr. Mason the most came together to remember that life. 

"He stood up for what he believed he helped the community really grow through the civil rights era to integrated schools and integrated beaches. Those were great lessons that took a great deal of courage," says former Biloxi Mayor Gerald Blessey. 

The fight to integrate the "whites only" beaches was shared in Dr. Mason's book "Beaches, Blood and Ballots." In it, Dr. Mason recounts the eight year court battle. 

Dr. Pat Smith, who co-authored the book says, "That case is what establishes in law that you cannot develop the sand beach anywhere that it was developed after 1947. You can't do it, it's enshrined because he took a stand that guaranteed the beach's accessibility to everyone."

The road to equality was dangerous, but Dr. Mason never let fear for his own life stop him from making life better for others. 

Long time friend Gaynette Flowers Pugh says, "Of course they burned his car, his office, it never stopped Mason. Mason was very determined, he could take a lot of beatin' and he's gonna fight to the finish."

The man and his fight are now at peace.  Dr. Mason's friends say he can now rest peacefully knowing he opened the doors of opportunity for so many. 

"I've seen things in the past 20-somthin' years that I've been here that was changed directly because of what Dr. Mason started out here," says fraternity brother Willie Heard. 

"The Lord was with him. The spirit of God was movin' through him and enabled him to open up many doors," says Reverend Jessie Trotter.

Dr. Mason set up his medical practice in Biloxi in 1955 and retired in 2002.

After that, he stayed active with the Mississippi Board of Archives and History and got more involved with his church.

Dr. Mason died in Ocean Springs the morning of July 8th.

By Marcia Hill

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