The discovery of gold in British Columbia drew Gibbs north. He operated a store in Victoria that was very successful, and was elected to represent a wealthy district in the Common Council of Victoria. Gibbs “read law” with an attorney in British Columbia before attending the law department of Oberlin College about 1870 and receiving a degree.
At this point, he married Mariah A. Alexander of Kentucky, with whom he had four children: Donald, Horace, Ida Alexander Hunt, and Harriet Gibbs Marshall. Three of his children, as well as his wife, graduated from Oberlin College. His family did not join him when he moved to Arkansas, but he kept close ties with his children.
Gibbs was recruited to Arkansas by two prominent African-Americans, Richard A. Dawson and J.H. Johnson, whom he met at a South Carolina convention in 1871. Gibbs arrived in Little Rock (Pulaski County), Arkansas, in early 1872 and was admitted to the Arkansas bar later that same year.
Mifflin Gibbs is known to have entered into brief partnerships with two other African-American lawyers. The first, with Black attorney Lloyd G. Wheeler in 1873-74, was brief. Wheeler & Gibbs represented African-Americans Richard A. Dawson, W. Hines Furbush (both state legislators), James R. Roland, and Wheeler himself in the only conviction under the Civil Rights Act of 1873. On June 2, 1873, they successfully sued a Little Rock barkeeper for refusing to serve the plaintiffs. The barkeeper was assessed fines and court costs of $46.80.
In 1876, Gibbs joined attorney Tabbs Gross in practice for about one year. Mifflin Gibbs does not appear in any official records of appellate court opinions during his career, nor was he listed as an attorney in city directories between 1891 and 1915. Newspapers in 1888, however, referred to Gibbs’ attendance at meetings of the Little Rock Bar Association and he speaks knowingly about the difficulties of practice in his autobiography.
Gibbs was primarily a politician. Shortly after his admission to the bar, Gibbs was appointed attorney for Pulaski County. He served in that role for several months, then was elected Municipal Judge of the city of Little Rock in 1873-74. A later publication hailed him as “the first elected black municipal police judge in the nation.”
In 1877, Gibbs was appointed Register of the United States Land Office for the Little Rock District of Arkansas, a position he held until 1886. After a brief practice interlude, during which he was a law partner with Roderick B. Thomas (see listing) for approximately two years, Gibbs was named Receiver of Public Moneys at Little Rock Land District in 1889. He held that position until 1897 when he was appointed American consul to Madagascar.
After he resigned as consul in 1901, Gibbs returned to Little Rock, where he continued to be influential in the Republican Party until his death.A couple of small corrections: Gibbs married Maria Alexander in 1859 and brought her back to Victoria, BC, where all five of their children were born. (One of the children, Wendal, died at age 20.) For reasons unknown, she returned to Oberlin with the children in 1866. Gibbs stayed on until 1870 before briefly rejoining his family, studying law at Tanner Business College, and then moving on; he settled in Little Rock after travels around the Reconstruction South.