Frank E. Gilbert, Esq., who was a long time Philadelphia attorney, died on September 17, 2020. Gilbert was 83.
Gilbert was born to the late Arthur Stanley Gilbert and Helen Chase Gilbert on November 23, 1936 in Philadelphia. He was raised in West Philadelphia where he attended St. Ignatius Loyola Catholic School and served as an altar boy for the St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church.
Gilbert was two years old in 1938, when his mother and his father’s sister, Mary Gilbert Manly, along with 45 other ladies, founded the Jack and Jill Club (as it was then known) in Philadelphia. At the time, the club’s youth participation was limited to 50 children. Gilbert was one of the organization’s first and few “Jacks,” which now has a membership of more than 40,000 African American families. He remained an active participant in the club until he was 21.
Jack and Jill of America, Inc. remained one of the hallmarks of Gilbert’s childhood and the friendships he formed were lifelong. In 2012, he participated in the club’s 75th anniversary celebration as one of the few remaining original members. Gilbert’s daughter, Stephanie, became the organization’s first national historian.
After Gilbert’s graduation from elementary school, he attended Philadelphia’s Saint Thomas More Catholic High School, class of 1953. Later, he would serve as trustee for the Saint Thomas Moore Society.
Following Gilbert’s graduation from high school he was awarded a scholarship to Villanova. In 1954, the Gilbert family moved from West Philadelphia to the East Mount Airy section of the city. After that, he went to college.
At Villanova University, Gilbert Joined the Justice Hughes Law Club and served as counselor for the undergraduate dormitories. In the fall of his sophomore year, he pledged a lifetime commitment and service to Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Psi Chapter, the city chapter charted at the University of Pennsylvania in 1920.
Gilbert graduated from Villanova University undergraduate in 1957 with a degree in economics and, following in the footsteps of his family friend and mentor, The Honorable Chief Justice Robert N.C. Nix Jr., Gilbert continued at Villanova through law school.
Upon graduating with a law degree in 1960, Gilbert attended Northwestern University to complete courses for prosecuting attorneys. In 1962, he joined the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, where he served as chief of the Fraud Division and acting chief of the Major Trial Division.
Always wishing the best for Gilbert, Bob Nix arranged for Gilbert to go on a blind-date with Diane Lola Davis, who was also living in the same West Philadelphia neighborhood and was employed by the Bell Telephone Company. They fell in love and were married on August 14, 1965 at Our Mother of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church.
In 1966, at the time of his honorable discharge from the U.S. Army Reserves, Military Police, Gilbert accepted a position in the United States Virgin Islands as assistant attorney general for the USVI Government. The relocated to the Caribbean Island of St. Thomas, where they welcomed their first daughter Stephanie Helen. During this time, Gilbert physically assisted with the contruction of the clubhouse of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church (Mafolie Church) on the north side of St. Thomas. Gilbert and several others charted the Virgin Islands Chapter of the Federal Bar Association.
In December 1968, the Gilbert family returned to Philadelphia, living in East Mount Airy. Gilbert joined the Philadelphia law firm Morgan, Lewis and Bockius, where practiced civil litigation for corporate clients. In addition, he served on the faculty of Temple University School of Law as a lecturer.
In 1972, Gilbert joined the Insurance Company of North America as assistant counsel, and in 1974, he joined the Philadelphia Defender’s Association, practicing juvenile defense.
In 1976, Gilbert was appointed to the Attorney General’s office in the Government of the U.S. Virgin Islands, the family returned to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Gilbert served as president of the U.S. and British Virgin Island Catholic Diocesan Board of Education, an executive board member of the Virgin Islands Council of the Boy Scouts of America where he served, vice president of the Virgin Islands Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., a member and counsel to the Virgin Islands Governor’s Commission on Human Resources, and the Rotary Club of St. Thomas.
In 1978, Gilbert and his family returned to the U.S. mainland as he started a position with the Philadelphia City Solicitor’s Office. In 1980, he joined the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office and culminated his career as a senior trail assistant in the DA’s charging unit, retiring in 2006.
Gilbert followed his father in becoming a member of Ye Old Philadelphia Club, a Philadelphia social club for African American men. Founded in 1926, the club fosters engagement in civic and professional ventures while celebrating fellowship amongst members. Gilbert eventually came to serve as multi-term president of the club and in 2012 was recognized for his many years of dedication and service.
Continuing active in civic engagement, Gilbert served on the Board of Directors of both the Stephen Smith Home and Stephen Smith Towers. He also served as the activities chair of the Philadelphia Council of Boy Scouts of America and a member of the Big Brother and Big Sister Association of Philadelphia and held membership in the Serra Club of Philadelphia.
Gilbert is survived by his wife of 55 years, Diane Lola Gilbert; daughter, Stephanie Helen; son, Michael Arthur Sr.; grandchildren, Christopher, Gabrielle, Michael Jr., Justin, Joshua, Aliyah; sister-in-law, Ruth Deborah Taylor.
The life of Frank E. Gilbert, Esq. was celebrated with a Mass of Christian Burial on Saturday, Sept. 26 at St. Raymond of Penafort Roman Catholic Church, 1350 Vernon Road. Viewing was from 8-9:30 a.m. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity ceremony was at 9:30 a.m. with Mass starting at 10 a.m. The interment was held at Ivy Hill Cemetery.
Restrictions were recognized inside the sanctuary. Those wishing to participate on the front lawn of the church were invited to bring a chair, where there was an audio broadcast. Livestream and replay available at https://livestream.com/saintraymond/events/9312964.