About Viola Gibson, Our Namesake

The Woman Behind the School

Photo of A Young Mrs. Gibson

  • At the age of nine, Viola Gibson moved to Cedar Rapids from Tennessee. She remained here until her death in 1989 at age 83.
  • Viola was educated in the Cedar Rapids Community School District.
  • Trained as a practical nurse, Viola worked as a Red Cross home nursing instructor.
  • At one time, Mrs. Gibson was a minister of the Christ Sanctified Holiness Church.
  • When African Americans, including her nephew, were denied access to Ellis pool, Mrs. Gibson was inspire to found the Cedar Rapids chapter of the NAACP in 1942.
  • In the 1960s, Viola led a campaign to convince the Iowa congressional delegation to support the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
  • Mrs. Gibson was instrumental in introducing black history into the Cedar Rapids schools.
  • Viola Gibson provided leadership for countless community and religious organizations and projects. Some examples include the Linn County Day Care Center, Bender pool, Jane Boyd Community House, Oak Hill senior housing, and the Witwer Senior Center.
  • Many community groups took note of Viola's hard work and compassion for children, families, and senior citizens. Her list of honors includes Church Woman of the Year in 1969 by the Cedar rapids Area Council of Churches; Outstanding Citizen of Iowa by the U.S. Jaycees, and Outstanding Older Iowa in 1979 by the Governor's Conference on Aging. The NAACP holds the annual "Yes, I Can" awards in her honor.