LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - He was known as the Rocketman: Kinnie Gibson was a pilot of planes, balloons and even a jet pack. Sadly, Gibson passed away Thursday morning at his home on Lake Cherokee.
We sat down with Gibson's close friend Bill Bussey, who said Gibson was a long time hot air balloon pilot, competing many times in the Great Texas Balloon Race, which starts in Longview next week.
Bill Bussey started what would become the Great Texas Balloon Race in 1980, but two years earlier he had met Kinnie Gibson in Florida while they were both novices at flying balloons.
"He was having some problems with his balloon in a tree, let's just put it that way. I was having problems with my balloon in the water," Bussey recalled.
That was nearly forty years ago.
"We were sort of self-taught, in that we didn't have anybody that knew much more than we did, which was very little," Bussey said.
Gibson became a licensed pilot and even got his hands on a jet pack, and his Rocketman business really took off.
He went global, visiting places around the world.
"Japan for Micheal Jackson, and you know, over the Sphinx for some promotion," Bussey said.
Gibson made many appearances flying with his rocket belt, and even more time in the air in a balloon.
But a diagnosis of cancer changed all of that.
"We got a request from Kinnie; he wanted to see the balloons one last time over lake Cherokee. He was alert and his wife said that was one of the happiest days of his life. He truly enjoyed his little stint with us, and we enjoyed it ourselves," Bill said.
They say Gibson could also be a tough guy.
"Is he the kind of guy that Chuck Norris would call tough?" I asked Bill.
"Yes. I would bet on Kinnie," Bill smiled.
So did Norris. Gibson was Chuck Norris' stuntman for twenty years.
"Chuck Norris' famous saying is 'It's a good thing Kenny couldn't act, because he'd be in my place,'" Bussey laughed.
"As a matter of fact, I think Kinnie looks more like Chuck Norris than Chuck Norris looks like Chuck Norris," Bill said.
"And he said I don't want any tears shed. I want you all to be happy. I'm going to have a party; I've already got it arranged. It's paid for, y'all come and have a good time," Bill recalled Kinnie saying.
Kinnie Gibson was well-known as a great friend. He was also known for the time he spent in the air, in as many ways as he could.