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William Elbert Gilbert

WILLIAM ELBERT GILBERT, professor of history and social science at the Virginia State Normal School at Radford, is a man of sound scholarship, has much administrative work to his credit in the educational field, and in his own case has sought to apply the lessons of history to rational participation in the public affairs of his home community and state. Mr. Gilbert is the present mayor of Radford.

He was born on a farm near Cleveland, Russell County, Virginia, June 4, 1881, son of John C. Gilbert, grandson of James A. Gilbert, and great-grandson of Joseph Gilbert. Joseph Gilbert was born in Russell County, and died near Lebanon, having spent all his life as a pioneer farmer in that county. The Gilberts came from England to Virginia during Colonial times. James A. Gilbert was born in Russell County, January 8, 1919, and died in Buchanan County, Virginia, in August, 1903. Practically all his life was spent in the first named county, where he had a farm and shop and where he served for many years as justice of the peace. During the war for secession he served in the Confederate army. His wife was Elizabeth Davis, who was born in Grayson County, and died in Russell County, April 3, 1897.

John C. Gilbert was born in Russell County, March 8, 1858, and in this county was for many years a farmer and lumberman. He now lives near Williamson, West Virginia. He is a republican and a Baptist. His wife was Eliza Crabtree, who was born in Russell County, Virginia, December 25, 1855, and died at the old homestead August 25, 1888. Her children were: Garland, a farmer in Russell County; Bruce, a rural mail carrier living at Cleveland; William Elbert; Rufus, a farmer in Buchanan County; George W., who died March 15, 1923, was a camp foreman for a lumber company, living at South Clinchfield, Virginia; and Martha, wife of George Mullins, a farmer at Freeling in Dickenson County, Virginia. After the death of his first wife, John C. Gilbert married Amanda J. Johnson, a native of Buchanan County. The nine children of this marriage are: Lydia, wife of John Yeatts, a carpenter at Williamson, West Virginia; Melvin, a hotel proprietor at Cleveland, Virginia, who as a member of the Eleventh Machine Gun Battalion with the Fourth Division, served in France for a year, participating in the Saint Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives, and was in Germany from November, 1918, to July, 1919; Zed, Sam and Joseph, all residents of South Clinchfield, Virginia; Pearl, wife of William Brantley, of Williamson, West Virginia; and Eliza, Asa and Hazel, who live with their parents.

William E. Gilbert attended the public schools of his native county, and for four years was a student in the preparatory department of Milligan College, Tennessee. Two years of his regular college course were spent in Milligan College and another two years at Lynchburg College, where he was graduated Bachelor of Arts in 1907. The year after his graduation he was principal of the school at Alberne, Virginia, and for three years held the same position with the schools of Clifton Forge, Virginia, where under his administration teacher training and commercial courses were introduced, and the high school was standardized and put on state accredited list, also a new high school building was erected. He then entered the University of Virginia, and graduated with the degree Master of Arts in 1913. Mr. Gilbert then came to the Virginia State Normal School at Radford as professor of history and social science, and has filled that chair now for ten years. He is an enthusiastic teacher and also an effective public speaker. During the past eight years he has served :as district chairman of the Cooperative Education Association, a state organization for the promotion of all kinds of good community activities.

In the summers of 1908 and 1911 Mr. Gilbert was an instructor in the summer normal schools at Covington, Virginia, and conducted the state normal summer school at Madison Court House in 1912. He is a member of the Virginia State Teachers’ Association, of which he was vice president from 1908 to 1910, and belongs to the Virginia Historical Society, the National Educational Association, the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and is a director of the National Council for the Social Studies.

Very active in civic affairs and in the discussions which led to a change from the councilmanic to the city manager-commission form of government for the City of Radford, Professor Gilbert was elected mayor of the municipality in 1920, beginning his official term in September of that year. As mayor he has exercised a large influence in a number of important matters, especially the purchase, installation and maintenance of public utilities and other improvements. He was one of the thirteen men who organized the Lee Highway Association.

While attending the University of Virginia he was president of the Washington Literary Society.

He is an elder in the first Christian Church of Past Radford, was affiliated with Virginia May Lodge No. 37, Ancient Free and Accepted Mason, of East Radford, and belongs to the Kiwanis Club and the Young Men’s Business Club of Radford. He owns a residence on Tyler Avenue, East Radford, and is a director of the Farmers and Merchants Bank of that city, of the Peoples Bank of Radford, and is president of the Radford Sales Corporation. Twice during the World war he volunteered his service but was advised that he could contribute most to his country by serving as teacher and promoter of relief and welfare agencies. He made numerous addresses before high schools, county fairs and many kinds of citizens’ meetings. He was associate director of the Junior Red Cross work in Virginia, being associated in this with Dr. J. P. McConnell, president of the Radford State Normal School. It would be difficult to name anything of importance in this locality with which he has not been connected since coming to Radford or to which he has not given his active support. As chief executive of the city the people are having a sane businesslike administration.

At Westchester, Pennsylvania, December 22, 1917, Mr. Gilbert married Miss Harriet Thompson Cooper, a daughter of J. Bailey and Eliza (Swartz) Cooper, the latter now deceased. Her father is a retired wholesale lumber dealer of Philadelphia, now living at Westchester. Mrs. Gilbert is a graduate of the Westchester State Normal School and also attended the University of Pennsylvania, and prior to her marriage she taught in Loudoun County, Virginia, and in the high school of Radford. Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert had three children: William Cooper, who was born December 22, 1918; Elizabeth DeLancy, born June 4, 1920; and John Bailey, deceased, who was born September 11, 1923.