David Gibson, a co-owner of Gibson’s Bakery in Oberlin, Ohio, died at his home Nov. 16. He was 65 years old and had been battling pancreatic cancer.
Gibson was a plaintiff in the family’s lawsuit earlier this year when the jury found Oberlin College liable for $31.5 million in damages and attorneys fees for slandering the bakery owners as “racist.” It found college officials helped orchestrate protests urging a boycott of the bakery, claiming the Gibsons ran a “racist establishment with a long history of racial profiling and discrimination.” They cancelled the contract the Gibsons had to supply the college with baked goods.
“In a small city like Oberlin, having the largest business and employer against you is more than enough to seal your fate,” wrote David Gibson in a USA Today opinion column June 21.
The college instigated its smear campaign after an Oberlin student who is Black tried to use a fake ID and shoplift bottles of wine from the Gibson’s store. When store clerk Allyn Gibson Jr. attempted to stop him, the student and two friends attacked Gibson. The students later pled guilty to attempted theft and acknowledged there was no racism involved in Gibson’s efforts to prevent the theft. Despite this, the college refused to issue a statement that the Gibsons were not racist. At trial the college’s lawyers didn’t present a shred of evidence from a single resident in the area or elsewhere to justify its racebaiting.
“The truth still matters,” David Gibson said in August, “and doing the right thing, even when it’s difficult, is important. No matter who you are or where you live.”
A Nov. 17 letter of condolence to the family on behalf of the Socialist Workers Party noted that “thousands of socialist workers over the last forty-eight years have looked forward to dropping by Gibson’s to … pick up baked goods, ice cream and other provisions” at the party’s annual conferences held in Oberlin.
“We celebrated, along with many in the area and beyond, your court victory against the Oberlin College administration’s efforts to defame your family’s reputation and destroy your livelihood,” SWP leaders Dave Prince, Steve Clark, both alumni of Oberlin, and Paul Mailhot and Peter Thierjung wrote in the letter.
“Today we stand with you in defending that victory against attempts by arrogant college officials to reverse the jury’s ruling,” they wrote. The college has hired even more lawyers to appeal the verdict and assert its right to slander the family.
“We’re inspired by the example David and your family have set,” the SWP leaders add. “We pledge to continue helping get out the truth in any way we can.”