Former Whitley County Judge-Executive Leroy Gilbert was a man who loved politics and who wanted to help people.
“He was hard working, gentle. He tried to help people. He would give you the shirt off his back,” noted one of his sons, Lee Gilbert. “He was a good dad. I will miss him.”
Leroy Gilbert, 78, died at his home Thursday.
Gilbert, a Democrat, was retired from Ironworker’s Local 25 in Detroit, Michigan, and served as Whitley County Judge-Executive for five years after narrowly defeating incumbent Jerry Taylor by 85 votes in the November 1993 General Election.
“In my opinion, he was the best county judge-executive we ever had because he cared for the people and he helped them. He took a lot of joy from that,” noted former Magistrate Debra Brown, who served alongside Gilbert on the fiscal court. “He was a wonderful man, dedicated. He loved politics. He was very helpful to me in my career as magistrate.”
Lee Gilbert said that his father had a love of politics long before he became judge-executive.
“It would be fair to say that he loved it. He loved the action of government and politics. He liked going to events and trying to make a difference,” Lee Gilbert said.
“Oh my goodness he loved politics,” Brown added noting Leroy Gilbert worked closely with Brereton Jones and Paul Patton’s campaigns for governor.
Lee Gilbert said that if his father hadn’t already had a family to support when he got out of college, then he might have become a lawyer, and that his father encouraged him when he decided to become an attorney.
Brown said the thing she will remember most about Leroy Gilbert was his kindness.
“Leroy was a very intelligent man. He cared deeply about the citizens of Whitley County,” Brown said. “He took a lot of pleasure in helping people. I can’t stress enough about how deeply he cared about the citizens of Whitley County. He took his job seriously.”
Brown noted that during one of her first conversations with Gilbert after she became a magistrate, he told her that it was OK to disagree with him, which is something she greatly appreciated.
“I remember teasing him saying, ‘don’t worry. I will,’” she recalled. “There were times I did disagree with him but it was very respectful.”
Brown said she doesn’t think a lot of people realized how much Gilbert did for Whitley County.
“He really had a deep concern for all things that would better Whitley County whether it was bringing in jobs, an industrial park or roads,” Brown added.
Gilbert is survived by his wife of 56 years, Mary Anny Gilbert, one daughter, two sons, eight grandchildren and one great grandchild, all of Corbin.
Funeral services were held Sunday for Leroy Gilbert at the O’Neil-Lawson Funeral Home Chapel. Burial followed in the Pine Hill Cemetery.