Former California Surplus Lines Chair Gibbs Loved Stories, Clients

By | January 23, 2015

George N. Gibbs Jr. was a man who was famous in insurance circles for his ability to tell a good story, and those who knew him say he was passionate about protecting the interests of his clients.

Gibbs died on Dec. 31, 2014 at age 84 in Los Angeles, leaving behind a wife, a sister, 10 children, 20 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Gibbs, known to close friends as “Jud,” served as chairman of the board of directors for the Surplus Lines Association of California in 1977, and he spent years building relationships within the wholesale and retail insurance communities.

“He loved to be the master of ceremonies,” said son Paul Gibbs, who followed in his father’s footsteps and is now an executive vice president at Willis Insurance Services. “He was the one you wanted sitting at your table. He was famous for his stories.”

Gibbs_GeorgeGeorge Gibbs grew up in Larchmont, N.Y. and attended the University of Toronto. He started on his long career in insurance in 1954 when he moved out to the West Cost following two years of service in the U.S. Army.

His first insurance job was with Haidinger-Hayes, where owner Vince Haidinger became Gibbs’ mentor and helped him get his start in the wholesale business.

Haidinger-Hayes was bought by Stewart Smith, which later became Stewart Smith West, a Lloyd’s of London broker. Gibbs worked with a variety of products, early on it was aviation and later he focused on directors and officers insurance.

Gibbs spent his last 12 years with the firm as its president and then head of U.S. operations. He joined Johnson & Higgins in 1987 as senior vice president and stayed there till he retired in 1997. At the time Johnson & Higgins was sold to Marsh & McLennan.

Gibbs’ daughter Miriam Currin also followed her dad into insurance, including a stint with Marsh. Gibbs and his son Paul worked together for a period at Johnson & Higgins. His son remembered him as big on relationships, and having a passion about protecting his clients’ interests.

“He took the fiduciary responsibility of the broker incredibly seriously,” he said.

Gibbs also liked teaching young professionals.

“I would say the highlight of his career was mentoring young brokers at Johnson & Higgins,” Gibbs said, adding that his father liked to remind up-and-coming professionals of small things like getting a haircut, or help them learn big career lessons, such as how to work with a client or address a group of professionals.

Beyond that Gibbs was big on community service both within and outside of the industry.

“His philosophy was that businesses should support the community,” his son said.

Gibbs served on an estimated 20 nonprofit boards throughout his life, including two school boards, Queen of Angels Hospital, Holy Family Services and the Tidings newspaper.

He also was involved with the California Museum of Science and Industry, the City of Hope, the Los Angeles Public Library, and was a member of the California Club, Wilshire Country Club and the 100 Club.

During the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, Gibbs was chosen by the Olympic Organizing Committee to be the envoy for the Canadian Olympic team.

He is survived by his wife, Gretchen, his children, Miriam Currin, Margreta “Gigi” Larson, Paul Gibbs, Christopher Gibbs, Matthew Gibbs, Gregory Gibbs, Georgianne Ramm, Elizabeth Campbell, Catherine Raack and Clare Gibbs, and in addition, his 20 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, his sister, Margaret “Peggy” Gibbs, and his sisters-in-law, Nancy Gibbs and Mary Gibbs.

The funeral service took place on Jan. 9 at St. Brendan Church in Los Angeles.

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