Martin “Marty” Gibson is a Portsmouth, Virginia native who grew up in Long Island and later settled in Arizona where he proceeded to make significant contributions as a local historian. He has written two books on Ahwatukee Foothills’ history.
Born on January 24, 1955 in Portsmouth, Virginia, Marty Gibson and his family did not stay in the southeastern state for long. His father’s occupation as a navy sailor prompted them to move to Long Island, New York where Gibson grew up. He thrived in his new environment, having an, “idyllic, wonderful childhood.”
He attended a Catholic parochial school for the first eight years of his schooling before ascending to Archbishop Molloy High School, a private Catholic high school in Queens, New York. In high school, Gibson excelled at sports, playing baseball vigorously. He received a college baseball scholarship to the New York Institute of Technology and maintained his involvement in the sport throughout his years of study there. He majored in marketing and graduated with a business administration degree in the field.
Following college, Gibson picked up odd jobs to support himself financially before at some point settling into a long-term career. He lived in different small towns around Long Island before eventually getting married and buying a house with his wife. They continued living in New York for a time, but, desperate to escape from the crowded and expensive city life, moved to Arizona in 1987 due to its quaint charms. Gibson has lived in the Ahwatukee area for thirty-five years now and recalls it having started out as a small, humble development. As of today, however, the village of Ahwatukee Foothills has expanded to 36 square miles with a population of 90,000.
Ahwatukee itself is not the only thing to have expanded throughout the years; the area’s local history has tremendously grown thanks to the efforts of citizens like Gibson. Though history was and is not his official career, Gibson’s passion for the subject has helped him play a significant role in recording the urban village’s achievements. Upon his arrival, he noticed that there was very little history present; having always had a casual interest in the towns that he lived in, Gibson decided to begin pursuing research himself. He started out by giving short public speeches about the history of Ahwatukee and eventually wrote books about the topic. His first book, Phoenix’s Ahwatukee-Foothills, was published in 2006 and is in its 3rd printing while his second, Historic Tales from Ahwatukee Foothills, was published in 2019 and is approaching its 2nd printing. Both have a notable local following and are the reward of a long process of interviews/research. Alongside his scholarly efforts, Gibson has also garnered experience in volunteering with non-profit organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters, Junior Achievement, and United Way.
Between his Ahwatukee research and volunteering, Gibson has also dabbled in the history of Phoenix; whether it be from newspapers, magazines, or oral sources, he has picked up bits of information regarding the city, specifically South Phoenix. He praises it for evolving from an underdeveloped and barren desert into an organized and remarkable community that still retains its agricultural roots. He credits the start of the newly-found potential of South Phoenix to ASU president Latie Coor’s home being built there in the 90s and summarizes the region’s developmental growth by describing how where there were once flower gardens at Baseline, there are now a row of homes. There was, however, a flipside to modern change in South Phoenix; according to Gibson, as the value
of South Phoenix’s land continued to increase, the preservation efforts of its architectural history did not. In terms of important historical buildings, “not a lot of what was still is.” In spite of this, South Mountain Community College is one of the few that continues to stand proud. Gibson finds the campus to be a “spark of enlightenment” with a strong appeal for those seeking quality college education. He notes that SMCC, like South Phoenix itself, has continuously expanded since its founding in 1978 and has integrated several important buildings into its campus that benefit the community (i.e: the Performing Arts Center built in 2003).
As a prominent figure in his own local community, Gibson has learned many skills: leadership, public speaking, open-mindedness, teamwork, and prioritization are all improvements he has noted. The writer-historian also admits that he has faced his own challenges in his life. His troubles center around procrastination as well as experiencing frustrations over when he as an individual has views contrasting that of larger companies he might work for.
Gibson passes his long-ripened wisdom with this piece of advice: “Believe in yourself. Find your passion and pursue what you really really love. It’s tough to fake it […] if somebody can find something they really enjoy, it makes it a lot easier to get out of bed in the morning and go ahead and do it.”
Martin Gibson embodies work-life balance as what helps him feel fulfilled and is a signature example of how the efforts of just one dedicated person can make such a big impact on the legacy of a beloved local area.
Narrator Martin “Marty” Gibson
Birthdate January 24, 1955
Place of Origin Portsmouth, VA
Place of Residence Ahwatukee Foothills, AZ
Occupation Local Historian, Writer
Interview Date April 21, 2022
Interview Location Classroom Studio
Interview Conducted By: Julie Tran and Ayomide Oshilaja
Story Written By: Julie Tran and Ayomide Oshilaja