He is well-known in St. Petersburg for his philanthropic and selfless work. Dr. Gilbert Leggett volunteered his services by treating anyone in need of dental care, regardless of ability to pay. Even after being relocated from the Central Avenue business district to Ninth Avenue South as part of a formal policy to racially zone the City of St. Petersburg, he continued to serve the poor.
According to The Weekly Challenger, many people found a way to get to his new dental office to be treated and ensured he stayed in business. Despite his accomplishments in business and advocacy, Leggett was down to earth and never basked in his own glory. His ambition was to see an improvement in the lives of his neighbors and his children.
He is regarded as a trailblazer and a beacon of hope by many in St. Petersburg. The Tampa Bay Times named him one of Pinellas County’s most influential five in the city’s first 100 years in 2011. He was compared to George S. Gandy, who built the first bridge to Tampa, and W.L. Straub, who advocated for Pinellas County’s secession from Hillsborough County. Gilbert “Rickey” Leggett II, his grandson, described him as diligent and a man who pursued his cause with zeal. He was a force to be reckoned with in his own right.
Leggett paid for his own education through a tailoring trade he learned. He used the proceeds from his tailoring work to attend dental school in Nashville, Tennessee, before moving to St. Petersburg in 1926.
When he realized that African Americans had no voting rights in the Democratic Party, he led the legal fight in 1946 to give African Americans the right to vote in Democratic Party primaries. To rally people to fight for their rights, he founded the St. Petersburg Non-Partisan Voters League.
Regardless of the stiff opposition to his campaign, he dedicated his life to working tirelessly to improve the quality of life in St. Petersburg. Leggett was a driving force behind the creation of the Melrose Park YMCA. Despite the fact that the initiative was costly, he saw it as a project that would benefit many people in the community.
His grandson remembered going to the center to play sports. The Ambassador Club has erected a trail marker at Leggett’s former building on Ninth Avenue South.