Remembering Larry Gibson
By Dave Cooper
An American hero has passed away. Larry Gibson, the “Mountain Keeper” from West Virginia who fought for over 25 years to save his family’s ancestral land on top of Kayford Mountain, died on his beloved mountain of a heart attack on Sunday, September 9.
Larry fought the good fight. One of the first West Virginians to try and organize people against mountaintop removal (MTR), he fought longer and harder against that destructive process of coal extraction than anyone else ever could. Beginning as a volunteer with the West Virginia Citizen Action Group (WV-CAG) in the mid-1980s, Larry soon joined the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC) and, with the help of OVEC organizer Laura Forman, began speaking publicly against MTR by the late 1990s.
When I first met Larry in March, 1998, I wasn’t too sure what to think of him. He was not a polished speaker and it was sometimes difficult to understand what he was saying. But like me, he was a former General Motors employee, and he had a lot of good GM stories from his days on the assembly line in Lordstown, Ohio, so we hit it off.
Meeting Larry changed my life. Shortly after hearing him speak, I visited Kayford Mountain, and 14 years later I’m still working on the mountaintop removal issue.