LOS ANGELES — Lee Wesley Gibson, believed to have been the oldest living Pullman porter, died as he lived – calm, quiet and in control – sitting in a chair at home Saturday with family members at his side.

Gibson was 106 years old.

“He had just celebrated his birthday five weeks earlier and he thanked everyone,” said friend Rosalind Stevenson.

Gibson began work as a coach attendant with Union Pacific Railroad in 1936. He was later promoted to Pullman porter, one of the uniformed railway men who served first-class passengers. It was a much-coveted job for African-Americans.

During a 38-year career, Gibson traveled the country, rubbing shoulders with celebrities and taking pride in the role. Porters were required to respond to the name “George” after the founder of the Pullman Palace Car Co., George Pullman.

“It was hard, but it was fun,” Gibson told the Los Angeles Times in a 2010 interview.


Gibson purchased a new family home in 1945 in South Los Angeles and lived in it until his death.

Lee Gibson was born May 21, 1910, in Keatchie, La. After his parents separated, his mother moved with the children to Marshall, Texas.

In 1927, he married Beatrice Woods, his wife of 76 years. They had four children.

Gibson worked various jobs until 1936, when a church deacon who worked for the Union Pacific Railroad asked Gibson’s wife if her husband would be interested in a job on the trains.

Pullman ended operation of sleeping cars in 1968 and its porters were transferred to Union Pacific and Amtrak. Gibson retired from the railroad in 1974, but kept working in business and as a volunteer.

Most recently, Gibson was featured in a TV commercial for Dodge titled “Wisdom,” which honored centenarians.

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