Jim Gilbert '65
Jim Gilbert almost died his junior year playing while playing football for MA. He was critically injured when he ruptured his kidney when an opposing player blocked him while he was kicking off during a game. He ended up in the hospital for three weeks and had half a kidney removed. “That was a very traumatic, life changing experience for me. I realized how sacred and how fragile life was.”
Jim came to MA as a 9th grader and played basketball on the varsity team as a freshman. “That was a real privilege and honor.” He lived in Edina but came to MA because of the opportunities to participate in sports and leadership, and to receive Bible teaching and spiritual coaching. “Wendell Carlson was my basketball coach. He was a great mentor, coach, and friend. Guido Kauls was my track coach and my German teacher. He was a very committed individual. Harlan Christianson took me under his wing and gave me some leadership opportunities.” Mr. Christianson told him he had leadership ability and needed to prepare himself for his future as a leader. “All of my teachers ‘walked the walk.’ They were very dedicated teachers, Christians, and mentors to all of us at school.”
Jim missed a few more weeks of school recovering from his surgery. During that time, President John Kennedy was assassinated. “As I watched President Kennedy’s funeral procession and heard people talk about the importance of public service, it cemented my commitment to go into public service.”
Jim wanted to make a difference and thought that being a lawyer would help him do just that. He went to the University of Minnesota and majored in political science and economics. As a college student, he also worked on Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s Presidential campaign and oversaw student volunteer recruiting at the national convention. After college he went on to law school, also at the U of M. As a senior in law school, he ran for the MN State House of Representatives and lost by just a few votes. After law school, Jim joined the firm Meshbesher and Spence, and practiced mainly commercial and business law for 25 years. For the last 10 years there, he was a managing partner and CEO. He did this until he was appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court by Governor Arne Carlson in 1997.
Governor Carlson first appointed him chairman of the Judicial Merit Selection Commission for the State of Minnesota. Governor Carlson then asked him if he would be willing to serve on the Minnesota Supreme Court. Jim was initially appointed and then ran for election in 2000. “I got to campaign around the state, and that was really fun, too, receiving 70% of the vote in the general election.” He was named Distinguished Jurist by the American Academy of Certified Trial lawyers Minnesota. Jim assisted Governor Carlson in appointing close to 100 judges to the bench in Minnesota over the course of seven years.
After he stepped down from the MN Supreme Court, Jim started the Gilbert Mediation Center to help people resolve major disputes before going to court. They have helped people mediate over 1,500 cases. Jim also started a boutique law firm. From time to time, he still tries a case if it grabs his interest and has appeared as a lawyer before the Minnesota and Wisconsin Supreme Court. The mediation center settles about 90-95% of the cases mediated. “It’s rewarding to help people settle some of the biggest disputes in their lives and in Minnesota. It brings peace in their families and their personal life.”
During the past three years, Jim has served as the Court appointed moderator, mediator, and special master of Prince’s estate in Carver County; yes, THAT Prince - the famous singer-songwriter, musician, producer, dancer and actor. Prince did not have a will, and the disputes or issues between Prince’s heirs and the various parties come to Jim who was appointed by Judge Eide to work to try and resolve various items in dispute. If they do not get them resolved, they go back to the courts for decisions. “That has been very interesting.”
In 2019, Jim loved attending the Redhawk Basketball Showcase at the Target Center. “It was a phenomenal experience. I could not believe that the whole stadium was filled up. It was absolutely amazing. I was so proud of MA. Back in my day, I was the starting center on the team, at 6’3, and I do not think that I could make the team now! I was all conference honorable mention back then, and now I see these great players and think ‘It’s a whole new world.’”
I asked Jim facetiously, “Do you sleep?” He said, “Barely. I’m finding a lot of satisfaction helping people and companies and the state solve their problems. I do not like to play bridge, I am not good at golf, I do not like to play tennis anymore from knee injury from football...but I am still having a blast doing what I am doing. And plan on running out the clock working in my profession and my calling!”