top of page



James Gibson was born in the small city of Moore Haven, Florida in 1938. He and his family moved to Fort Pierce until the early 1940s, where he would attend Lincoln Park Academy like many of the other Highwaymen. After graduating, he went on to attend Tennessee State University for two years. He returned to Florida after receiving a letter from his friend, Alfred Hair, with a promising new entrepreneurial venture.

While James met Backus in high school, it was not until his return to Florida that he began to learn from him. He would work in his studio when he could, helping to make frames and cleaning. He listened, observed, and learned at the studio, and then would practice his painting skills in the backyard of Alfred’s mothers house on 13th Street.

Some of his favorite customers, he says, were tourists. With Florida as a popular vacation destination, he enjoyed giving folks more than just memories. “It’s about giving people a piece of Florida to take home. You can’t take the weather home and you can’t take the beach with you. But you can take my artwork and be reminded of all that.” (James Gibson, Paintings Across Generations)

In many ways, James was one of the most “True Highwaymen”. He was one of the earliest artists and possibly the most prolific, consistently painting for over 50 years. His style was simple, and wildly colorful. He was an excellent salesman, and was known for always dressing in a sharp three-piece suit and acting very professionally. 

Towards the end of his career, he slowed down as an artist and began using more detail in his work. Paintings that he used to create in an hour he now spend a few days on. He could sell his work for real money, having achieved status as a prominent Florida artist.  

His notoriety earned him space in the Florida Supreme Court from 2000-2003, where he was recognized by those who visited. His pieces are now a part of prominent collections by patrons such as former Secretary of State Glenda Hood, former Governor Jeb Bush, and former U.S. Vice-President Hubert Humphrey.

Biographies are adapted from those on, one of the earliest informative websites on the Florida Highwaymen. Since the site is no longer active, we have provided them here.

bottom of page