Laura Avis Gibson was born in Randolph County, North Carolina, on 10 December 1923, one of nine children. She worked on the family farm while growing up and graduated from Allen Jay High School in High Point at the age of sixteen. Gibson worked on the family farm for a year, then worked at Burlington Industries for three years, until she was old enough to join the military.
Gibson and one of her older sisters joined the Coast Guard in Raleigh in December 1943. The following month they reported for basic training together in Palm Beach, Florida. In April 1944, she was sent to Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., to do clerical work in the Military Morale Division. Gibson also worked briefly in Admiral Russell Waesche’s office in the Department of the Navy during this time. She remained in Washington until her discharge in March 1946.
Gibson returned to North Carolina after the war, attended Jones Business College, and resumed her career at Burlington Industries.