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Vince Whibbs Statue Unveiled At Community Maritime Park

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Dave Dunwoody
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  The late Vince Whibbs was enshrined at Community Maritime Park on Saturday, with the unveiling of a statue honoring the seven-term Pensacola mayor and community leader.

Whibbs, who died in 2006, was a driving force behind the park’s development, along with the late Admiral Jack Fetterman, whose name adorns the field at Bayfront Stadium.

“When the vision for this park was formed, Vince Whibbs was right there in the middle of the process,” said Jim Reeves, who chairs the Community Maritime Park Board.

Reeves told the gathering about Whibbs, a native of Buffalo, New York,  falling in love with Pensacola while training as an Army Air Corps fighter pilot during World War II. After returning to build an automobile dealership, Whibbs later became Pensacola’s longest-serving mayor (1977-1991).

“As mayor, he oversaw the Pensacola of the 1980s,” said Reeves. “He oversaw the changing, challenging of Pensacola in the 1990s. We all agree, I know, that he was Pensacola’s best ambassador.”

Escambia County Commissioner Lumon May presented the Whibbs family with a proclamation honoring the unveiling. Prior to the official reading, May said when he began in politics, a friend pointed to Vince Whibbs.

“He said ‘Lumon, if you ever want to imitate or duplicate someone who has done well in community service and politics….Vinnie Whibbs is the guy,’” said May. “I’ve kept that close to my heart my entire life.”

The main speaker was Vince Whibbs’ youngest son. J.D. Whibbs told the audience that in writing his script, it was difficult to write something that would make his father’s life seem regular.

“Everything he did came from the heart; and I just kept coming back to three things that meant so much to him,” said Whibbs. “God, family, and Pensacola. “I don’t go a single day without thinking about him. I ask him for strength, I ask him for wisdom, and I ask him to help me be more like him, and less like me.”

The younger Whibbs said that when his father passed away suddenly, the dream of a community maritime park and its amenities could have died with him, but the coalition he formed with his friends and those with the same vision didn’t let it end.

“I can surely feel his presence,” Whibbs said. “Every time I walk on this ground I know that he worked until the second that he died, working on this park. And it was important to him.”

After the unveiling of the statue, which was funded by the Whibbs family, current Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward reflected on his relationship, both personally and politically, with the Mayor Emeritus.

“When I first moved back from New York City I went into the dealership and bought a Yukon,” said Hayward. “I was able to sit in a corner with Mr. Whibbs, and he said ‘Ashton, I work on having a great attitude, and having purpose every day.’ He screamed Pensacola. He just had an electric personality.”

Michael Wolf, principal landscape architect with the Wallace Company, designed the memorial, located behind Bayfront Stadium’s right field. The black granite base and the memorial area itself, are in the shape of a pentagon: inspired by Vince Whibbs’ service to the City of Five Flags.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.