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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:                     RICHARD GIBIAN


DATE:                                JANUARY 23, 2012

LOCATION:                        SELMA, ALABAMA

Transcript (PDF)


Richard Gibian was born in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1919.   His father, Julian Gibian, was born in Macon, Georgia.  His mother, Lucile Newman, was from Snow Hill, Alabama.   His family was Reform.  Richard graduated from Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1941.   

While attending university, Richard volunteered for the cadet program and earned his wings in December, 1942.  He joined the United States Army Air Corps as a fighter pilot and trained in Texas.  He went overseas during World War II and was stationed in England.  He flew with the Ninth Air Force in Europe with the 87th mission and became commanding officer.   He returned to Montgomery after the war in 1945 and worked briefly in his family’s men’s haberdashery business, Capitol Clothing Store.  

In 1947, he moved to Selma, Alabama, with his wife, Betty Rose Gibian.  He worked in his wife’s family business, American Candy Company, until they sold the business in 1989.  The company started as a local business and eventually expanded nationally and internationally.  At the height of the business, the company had approximately 350 to 500 employees.

He was vice president of the P47 Pilots Association.  He had been a member of the Kiwanis Club and sat on the board of directors of a hospital.  He volunteered at the library.  He and his wife have three daughters.


Richard discusses his life in Selma, Alabama.  He grew up in Montgomery, Alabama.  He mentions that his family was Reform but notes they were not very observant.  He talks about training as a fighter pilot and earning his wings in 1942 after graduating from Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia.  Richard discusses his military service in the United States Army Corps during World War II in the European theater.  He describes his experiences and achievements.  He mentions what he observed being an American-Jewish soldier. 

Richard talks about his return to the United States after the war in April, 1945, and briefly working in his family’s men’s haberdashery’s store in Montgomery.   He discusses moving shortly thereafter to Selma with his wife, Betty Rose Gibian, and working at her father’s business, helping to develop machines.  He reflects on the welcoming Jewish community in Selma.

He discusses the civil rights era and the impact it had on the business and employees.  He tells several funny stories about customers.   Richard remembers the well-known incident of a group of rabbis who came to Birmingham and their visit with Martin Luther King, Jr., in the Birmingham jail.  He talks about the effect it had on the Jewish community of Selma.  

Richard talks about being vice president of the P47 Pilots Association.  He discusses his generation, the war, and patriotism.  He reflects on the Selma community today and how he sees its future.   

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