Hank Gilbert grew up just outside Tyler, TX on a farm in the district. After being inspired by his high school agriculture teacher to teach high school agriculture himself, Hank attended Texas A&M University and earned a degree in Agricultural Education.
He became a high school agriculture teacher and taught for 13 years in two schools in East Texas. Several of Hank's former students are themselves high school agriculture teachers, continuing a tradition of caring about the land and those who work it.
Hank and his late wife, Karla Murphy Gilbert, settled in Whitehouse after Hank left education to dedicate his time to the small service business he and Karla founded, Professional Keepers, and his ranching operations. Together they raised two boys, Peyton and Cody, both of whom are studying pharmacy at the University of Texas at Tyler. Peyton followed in his father's footsteps, becoming active in Future Farmers of America, and was elected state president of the organization in Texas.
In 2008. at the urging of Texas Democrats, Hank ran for the open Texas Agriculture Commissioner seat. During that race, Hank earned more media and attention than any other statewide candidate for office in Texas by helping Democratic voters understand the issue of the Trans-Texas Corridor System - a network of ID-lane highways planned to run through much of the state, built through the seizure of private lands by eminent domain and without any thought to the tremendous environmental problems it would cause across Texas.
Although Hank fell short in 2008, even though he was outraised and outspent, he outperformed every other Democrat on the ticket, coming in at 43 percent in a race during a cycle where the gubernatorial nominee did not break 30 percent. Hank visited all the state's 254 counties - more than once - and was the first statewide Democratic candidate since Ann Richards to mount a serious campaign in East Texas, West Texas, and the Texas Panhandle.
Hank's campaign showed other Democrats that statewide races could be won, and that Texas Democrats could crack 40 percent statewide. Four years later, in 2010, a full slate of Democrats sought offices up and down the ballot, and Hank was again encouraged to run for Texas Agriculture Commissioner.
Following the 2010 cycle, Hank returned to his ranch, watched his sons graduate high school and college, and worked with his wife, Karla, on what would eventually become the non-profit Karla's Joy. Karla had a passion for helping women in crisis, and founded, with Hank, a charity to help raise funds to outfit the homes of women who were being assisted by the East Texas Crisis Center, an agency assisting battered and abused women.
Karla suffered from cancer and passed away in 2017. Following her passing, Hank re-named the family charity, a 501[c] non-profit, Karla's Joy. To date, Karla's Joy has helped furnish homes or apartments for more than 825 East Texas women in crisis.
Hank was impacted throughout his life by the service his older brother gave to our country during Vietnam. While watching the Mueller hearings last summer, Hank became enraged at the behavior of Louie Gohmert toward Robert Mueller, a decorated Vietnam-era veteran. While watching that hearing, Hank realized it was time to honor Karla's wishes and do everything he could to defeat Louie Gohmert. That day, he called his longtime campaign consultants and began the process of putting his campaign together.