Jim Gibbons was born and raised in Sparks, Nevada, and attended Nevada public schools and universities. Gibbons earned a B.S. in Geology from the University of Nevada, Reno, and a Master's degree in Mining/Geology from the University of Nevada's Mackay School of Mines. He went on to earn his J.D. from Southwestern University School of Law and completed his post-graduate work at the University of Southern California. Gibbons is a former combat pilot and decorated veteran of both the Vietnam and Persian Gulf Wars. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1967 to 1971 and graduated from the USAF Air Command and Staff College as well as the Air War College. He joined the Nevada Air Guard in 1975, attaining the rank of Colonel, and served as the group's Vice Commander from 1990 through 1996. He transferred from the Nevada Air Guard to the Air Force Reserves, where he served until 1998. During his military service, Gibbons received 19 service medals, including the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with Two Oak Leaf Clusters, Aerial Achievement Medal, and Air Force Commendation Medal with One Oak Leaf Cluster. He also was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his extraordinary achievement while participating as an RF-4C Flight Leader in the Gulf War.
Gibbons served three terms in the Nevada State Legislature and went on to win election to four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. During his congressional tenure, Gibbons served as chairman of several key committees and subcommittees with jurisdiction over our nation’s intelligence capabilities, homeland security, military, and our natural resources. Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack he authored and introduced bipartisan legislation that would become the basis for the Homeland Security Act, under which the Department of Homeland Security was created.
Gibbons was elected Governor of Nevada in November 2006. As governor, he worked to attract renewable energy production to Nevada and created a Spending and Government Efficiency Commission. Opposed to any tax increases as a means of closing the state’s budget gap, Gibbons faced a legislature that ultimately enacted a combination of tax increases with spending cuts over his veto.
Gibbons lost the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary to Brian Sandoval, who went on to win the general election.