Former city official dies

Published 12:04 am Friday, July 10, 2009

NATCHEZ — Baseball player, businessman, former city official and friend Jim Gilbert, 83, died Tuesday.

Gilbert made his arrival in Natchez known as the centerfielder for the Natchez Indians, a minor league baseball team.

“He was the Mickey Mantle of Natchez, the power hitter,” former City Attorney Walter Brown said.

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Brown said he recalls watching Gilbert play and he, along with many others including former Mayor Tony Byrne, were impressed with his skills on the field.

“He could knock the devil out of the ball,” Byrne said.

After his baseball career ended, Gilbert became a Natchez alderman for Ward 4, and his former colleagues sing his praises as a city official, as well.

His budgetary concern is why he is most applauded, Byrne said.

“Jim was an excellent alderman,” he said. “He was one of those who really studied the budget hard and questioned figures and was very good at that.”

Brown said he was a strong-willed alderman.

“He was very forthright. He freely expressed his opinion and most of the time he was right,” he said.

Former alderman Al Graning said he knew Gilbert even before he served 14 years on the board of aldermen.

“He was a very good man, and I liked him very, very much, and I’m sorry he has died,” he said.

Graning said he was a man of many talents, and one of those hidden talents happened to be a very good singing voice.

Funeral services for Gilbert will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Stanton Baptist Church.

Burial will follow at Greenlawn Memorial Park Cemetery.

Visitation will be from 9 a.m. until service time at the church.