The Gibson Family has a long and impressive history dating back to the early pioneering days of California.

William Henry Gibson (1859 – 1935) and his wife Lucinda Ray Gibson were a part of the African American community of West Oakland in the late 19th century. William Gibson was a dining and club car waiter on the Southern Pacific Railroad beginning in 1898, and he remained with the railroad for 30 years.

Lucinda Ray (Gibson) (1859 – 1932) was the daughter of Nelson Ray (1820 – 1882), a man born into slavery who obtained his freedom and moved to California in order to mine for gold. With the profits he earned, Ray was able to buy the freedom of his wife, Lucinda Jennings (Ray), and their children, bringing them out to California. The family settled in Placerville, California, where Nelson Ray worked as a carpenter and blacksmith. Sometime before 1877 the Ray family moved to Sacramento, California.

  • Charles Nelson Gibson (September 21, 1878 – August 28, 1967) was born in Sacramento, California, the son of William Henry Gibson and Lucinda Ray Gibson. Charles, following in his father's footsteps, worked 41 years from 1913 to 1954 for the Southern Pacific Railroad. According to his daughter Audrey, he worked as a "red cap" at the train station, carrying passengers' baggage. He also worked as a taxi driver; Audrey Robinson says he and Ruth Beckford's father were the only independent black taxi drivers in the Bay Area at the time. He also sometimes drove a limousine for Hudson and Butler Funeral Home. 2 His obituary says:

    "Recipient of many special commendations during his term of service, Mr. Gibson's skill as a railway host prompted officials to select him to serve in the private railway cars of S.P. presidents William Sproule and W. S. Palmer." 3

    Charles Gibson was quite active in community organizations, including the First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Oakland, the Retired Railroad Men's Club, and several Masonic Lodges.

    On June 2, 1901, Charles married Maude Esther Johnson (Gibson) (April 27, 1880 – December 11, 1967) Maude was a member of St. Augustine's Church. From at least 1918, they lived at 6148 Colby St., and they had three daughters, Thelma, Lois, and Audrey.
    • Thelma M. Gibson (Radden) (February 18, 1903 – April 7, 2004) 8
    • Dr. Lois E. Gibson (Oubre) (July 5, 1906 – July 8, 1994) received medical training after which she worked in Oakland as a surgical chiropodist. Lois was a member of the Xi Alpha chapter of Zeta Phi Beta sorority.
    • Audrey Lucinda Gibson (Robinson) (August 24, 1915 – June 28, 2008) 1

Thelma Gibson Radden

2004 8

Thelma Gibson Radden graduated from Oakland Tech. She trained in nursing at General Hospital Number 2 in Kansas City, Missouri in 1930, 9 before returning to attend UC Berkeley, because she needed to take science classes in order qualify for a California state nursing license. She got a BA from Wayne State University in Detroit. She served for 20 years as the Red Cross Director of Home Nursing. 8

Audrey Gibson Robinson

Audrey Robinson, 1966

Audrey Gibson Robinson ​was a kindergarten teacher at Thornhill Elementary School, the first Black teacher at that school.

Growing up, she attended Peralta Elementary, Claremont Junior High,5,6 and University High School and was a member of the Linden Street YWCA.

Audrey married Frederick D. Robinson, a Washington, D.C. police officer in 1941 shortly before he was deployed to fight in World War II. In 1944 Robinson died during combat in Italy, leaving Audrey a single mother with a second child on the way.

She taught at Thornhill from 1966 to 1976.

Audrey became very active at the Oakland Museum, serving as Docent Chairman for the History Department. She also served as Vice President of Administration for the Camron-Stanford House Preservation Association, and volunteered at the African American Museum and Library at Oakland (AAMLO).

She was a third generation member of St. Augustine's. When she died in 2008, her funeral was held at the church. 1


Numerous members of the family are buried in the Sacramento City Cemetery. A plaque at the family grave site reads:


Having secured his own release from bondage Nelson Ray worked in the gold fields of Northern California to buy the freedom of his beloved wife and three of his eight children bringing them west across the plains by wagon train in 1854 to establish a home in Placerville. It wasn't until 1877 however that the rest of the Ray family shattered by the child-slave markets of Missouri was finally reunited in Sacramento.


It is only thru the dedicated efforts of Charles Nelson Gibson, the son of Lucinda Ray Gibson, his daughter, Thelma Gibson Radden and others that this family's history and its traditions are being preserved.

"Do not deny what your senses tell you, the color of skin and hair, the slant of eyes and differences in culture but find in that person the good qualities that you and they have in common and then work for all betterment of humanity."

Links and References

  1. Audrey Robinson obituary
  2. Oral History of A​udrey Robinson from African American Museum and Library at Oakland
  3. Charles Nelson Gibson obituary Oakland Tribune August 31, 1967
  4. Maude Esther Gibson obituary Oakland Tribune December 15, 1967
  5. Audrey Lucinda Robinson A Bit of History Blog
  6. Oakland Playground Activities Oakland Tribune January 15, 1928
  7. Nelson Ray on
  8. obituary for Thelma Gibson Radden Sacramento Bee April 13, 2004
  9. Activities Among Negroes by Delilah Beasley Oakland Tribune August 24, 1930