Thomas Gibbons Jr., a hero Philadelphia police officer and famed crime reporter, was honored at a press conference on April 29th by his fellow officers and family.
Gibbons enjoyed his career as a journalist before passing away in March 2018, but nothing meant more to him than his years in the highway patrol, said his widow, Carol Gibbons. They had been married for 47 years.
“Our family is truly grateful to the Philadelphia Police Foundation for helping us secure a police motorcycle in memory of my husband,” she said.
Thomas Gibbon Jr.’s father, Thomas J. Gibbons Sr., was also an officer who became police commissioner in 1952.
Gibbons Jr. served on the department’s highway patrol unit before a motorist shot him during a traffic stop in 1970. His injuries kept him from returning to patrol, so he retired from the force on disability at 28 and joined the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin as a crime reporter in 1973.
He died from brain cancer in 2018 at the age of 73.
“Tom Gibbons was a colleague of mine when we both worked at the old Philadelphia Bulletin as copy-boys and when we both were with the Philadelphia Police Department,” said Larry Rubin who is now in pubic relations. “Tom was born into a police family and worked tirelessly and effectively as a police officer with the highway patrol’s motorcycle unit until being seriously shot on duty.”
Rubin remembers Gibbon’s subsequent career as a crime reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer as one filled with many interesting and significant stories about people and places in the city.
“Tom’s memory and accomplishments will live on now that a motorcycle, bearing his name and badge number, will be part of the fleet of the Highway Patrol,” he said.
After his passing, the Gibbons family raised funds through donations to the Philadelphia Police Foundation to make a purchase in his memory, which would be donated in his name to the Philadelphia Highway Patrol.
“The Gibbons family led the fundraising efforts and the Philadelphia Police Foundation supplemented their efforts to cover the full cost of the cycle,” said Eric Cushing, executive director of the Philadelphia Police Foundation.
The highway patrol unit received the donated motorcycle, a Harley-Davidson, at the 18th Police District on 5501 Pine Street.
“I placed the helmet he wore on the new motorcycle’s seat in an attempt to bring together the past and the present as we pay tribute to Tom,” Carol Gibbons said. “I want to thank the police foundation and all of the people who contributed to the purchase.”
The police foundation supplemented the Gibbons Family’s fund-raising efforts to help purchase the new motorcycle for $20,300.
“He loved being a police officer and loved going fast on motorcycles, ” Carey Gibbons-Kelman said of her father. “He also rode for the drill team and rode on people’s shoulders and all kinds of crazy stuff.”
This is the 14th new, fully police-accessorized motorcycle that the Philadelphia Police Foundation has purchased for the highway patrol in the past two years.
“We were a little short of our goal and very kindly the foundation stepped in and filled the gap for us. So, we were able to present the motorcycle we have today, ” Gibbons-Kelman said.
Thomas Gibbons Jr’s name and badge number is on the motorcycle.
“I hope he is watching, because he’d love it,” Gibbons-Kelman said.
“The Gibbons motorcycle project was a mission of love for Tom Gibbons and his wonderful family,” said Maureen Rush, president of the Philadelphia Police Foundation. “Many of our board members knew Tom from his days in the Police Department, the Bulletin, and the Inquirer. Our entire board of directors supported and approved the supplemental funding to assist the Gibbons family’s efforts to raise funds to make the motorcycle a reality.”
The foundation said the bike will be used in future events organized by the Hero Thrill Show, an organization that raises money to pay for the college tuition of the children of police officers and firefighters who have been killed in the line of duty.