James O. Gibson

Senior Fellow, Emeritus


For over six decades, Jim Gibson has been a local and national leader in civil rights, urban planning and community development, and philanthropy. His commitment and determination to promote needed social change through both grassroots and institutional action have had lasting impact on many fields and especially in the District of Columbia, a city he loves.

As a young man, Jim worked to eliminate the Jim Crow policies and practices of southern states as co-chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) movement in Atlanta and subsequently as the executive secretary of the Atlanta Chapter of the NAACP. Jim moved on to serve as a senior associate at the Urban Institute where he focused on civil rights policies and the promotion of social and economic opportunities. Jim also served as president of Washington, DC’s Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation (1983-1985) and as director of the Equal Opportunity Program at the Rockefeller Foundation (1986-1992). He was chair of the board of PolicyLink for many years and helped that organization become the national force for equitable change that it is today. In addition, Jim utilized his knowledge and leadership in social equity efforts with work on the President’s National Advisory Commission on Rural Poverty, the National Capital Planning Commission, as a delegate to the United States-Great Britain Community Development Policy Exchanges, and as Chair of the Board of the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness.

Throughout his career, Jim has mentored generations of new leaders. As a CSSP Senior Fellow from 2000 to 2016, Jim mentored dozens of young staff. While at CSSP, he also worked intensively on the revitalization of Camden, NJ, part of a team supported by The Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Through the example of his career, and as a man of uncompromising principles and deep understanding of what is required for social change, Jim continues today to inspire those of us at CSSP as well as thousands of others around the country.