James C. Gardner

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James C. Gardner
Jamesgardner-swearing-in.jpg
James Creswell Gardner's swearing in as the mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana (1954)
Mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana
In office
November 9, 1954 – 1958
Preceded by Clyde Edward Fant, Sr.
Succeeded by Clyde Edward Fant, Sr.
Shreveport City Council, District B member
In office
1978–1982
Preceded by New position
Succeeded by Dee Peterson
State Representative from Caddo Parish (at-large)
In office
1952–1954
Preceded by Edwin Ford Hunter, Jr.
Succeeded by Frank Fulco, Sr.
Personal details
Born James Creswell Gardner
(1924-06-17)June 17, 1924
Shreveport, Caddo Parish, Louisiana, USA
Died August 27, 2010(2010-08-27) (aged 86)
Shreveport, Louisiana
Resting place Forest Park East Cemetery in Shreveport
Nationality American
Political party Democratic Party
Spouse(s)

(1) Mary Ella Buchanan Gardner (married 1944-1976, her death)

(2) Mary Ann Welsh Gardner (married 1978-his death)
Children 2 (and 3 stepchildren)
Occupation Power company executive
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Rank Second lieutenant
Battles/wars European Theater of Operations
For the Republican former U.S. representative and lieutenant governor of North Carolina, see James Carson Gardner.

James Creswell Gardner, I, known as Jim Gardner (July 17, 1924 – August 27, 2010),[1] was a power company executive best known as the mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana, who served a single term from 1954 to 1958.

Sometimes called Shreveport's "First Citizen," Jim Gardner was aged 30 when he assumed the office.

In 1959, Gardner joined the administration of Southwestern Electric Power Company, which serves parts of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas. He retired as company vice president in 1987. He penned a two-volume autobiography, entitled Jim Gardner and Shreveport.

Background[edit]

Jim Gardner in his wagon in 1925 at the age of one
Gardner's first wife, the former Mary Ella Buchanan, in her wedding dress, October 14, 1944, in Aberdeen, Maryland

Gardner was born in Shreveport to Arvill Pitt "Jack" Gardner and the former Marie Creswell.[1] He is a descendant of Thomas Bibb, the second governor of Alabama, and Pierce Mason Butler, the governor of South Carolina from 1836–1838, who was killed in the Mexican-American War.[1]

In 1944, at the age of 20, Gardner married childhood sweetheart Mary Ella Buchanan. They had graduated together in 1940 from C.E. Byrd High School, the first public high school established in Shreveport.[1]

Gardner entered basic training in the United States Army and was admitted to Officer Candidate School as a second lieutenant. His Reserve Officers Training Corps unit was sent from Camp Beauregard near Pineville, Louisiana, to Fort Benning, Georgia. With his commission, Gardner was assigned to the European Theater of Operations in World War II. He landed at Cherbourg, France, and then was assigned to Nuremberg, Germany, where he observed of the Nazi war crime trials. In June 1946 he was discharged at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, and returned to Shreveport, where he spent the remainder of his life.[1]

After the war, Gardner obtained a bachelor's degree in history from Louisiana State University. In 1963, at the age of 39, Gardner passed the Louisiana bar exam after taking night classes at Centenary College of Louisiana[1] and four years of self-study.[citation needed]

On December 28, 1976, Mary Ella died of cancer. The couple had two children. In 1978, Gardner married Mary Ann Welsh (1928-2017),[1] a divorcee with three daughters. She was the first art professor at Louisiana State University in Shreveport from the establishment of the institution in 1967 until her marriage to Gardner.[2]

Mayor[edit]

Gardner saw politics as a means to improve the lives of citizens in the community. He was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1952, when he was 27. He left the legislature after his election as mayor two years later. As a legislator, he worked for passage in the tumultuous 1954 session of right-to-work legislation, which was repealed two years later on the return of Earl Kemp Long to the governorship.[citation needed]

In the Gardner administration, Shreveport took the initial steps toward the development of the Red River waterfront and Interstate 20, launched during the administration of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower. There was a large bond program to finance massive overhauls and modernization of the Shreveport water and sewerage systems and streets, substantial urban renewal projects, important annexations, and general civic growth and development.[citation needed]

Though he served only one term as mayor, Gardner is remembered for laying the groundwork for bringing Shreveport into the modern municipal era. Later mayors did not hesitate to call upon Gardner to promote civic issues. He was also designated "Mr. Shreveport".[1]

Over the years, Gardner was called upon for many public duties. In 1965, Governor John J. McKeithen named him the vice-chairman of the newly established Louisiana State Science Foundation, which located funding for promising research endeavors to improve the state economy. Gardner moved up to the chairmanship in 1966, when Baton Rouge attorney Theo Cangelosi stepped down after a year because of temporary health problems.[citation needed]

Memoirs[edit]

For years, Gardner fought heart disease. He had bypass surgery in 1978 and again in 2006. He wrote his memoirs while recovering from surgery.

Institutions[edit]

At the time of his death, Gardner was a member of the Broadmoor United Methodist Church in Shreveport. An active Methodist layman, he taught Sunday school for 35 years.[1]

Gardner was a member of the large Shreveport Rotary International and the Shreveport Committee of One Hundred, a civic improvement group. His civic awards included Young Man of the Year (1954), "Mr. Shreveport" (Optimist Club, 1979), Shreveport Bar Association Liberty Bell Award, Shreveport Chamber of Commerce Business Leader of the Year, Community Council Paul M. Brown Humanitarian Award, and the Brotherhood Humanitarian Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews.[1]

Commemoration[edit]

On May 30, 2008, the Shreveport police headquarters, the former City hall and the former Confederate Memorial Medical Center (or Charity Hospital) buildings, was renamed the James C. Gardner Building. In the dedication ceremonies, then mayor Cedric Glover hailed Gardner's "wisdom, vision, dedication, and commitment to the city. We have roads that go north and south and east and west and loops that go around." Glover said that the highway system is the fruition of the city master plan which Gardner developed a half century earlier that has made possible the major highways of the area, including the Clyde Fant Parkway, Interstate 20, and Interstate Loop 220.[3]

As a state legislator, Gardner authored the bill which shifted the Charity Hospital building from state to municipal control. As mayor, he pushed for a bond election for new construction on the site. Gardner also served on the board for Charity Hospital, as had his grandfather, James Creswell, two generations earlier. The impetus to rename the building after Gardner was pushed by former State Representative Forrest Dunn, a former curator of the Louisiana State Exhibit Building Museum in Shreveport.[3]

Death[edit]

Gardner died of cancer, aged 86, at Willis- Knighton Pierremont Medical Center in Shreveport. He was interred beside Mary Ella at Forest Park East Cemetery in Shreveport.[1]

An only child, Gardner was survived by his second wife, Mary Ann Gardner, who lived until 2017; a daughter and two sons from the first marriage, and the three stepdaughter from his second marriage.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k James C. Gardner obituary, Shreveport Times, August 29, 2010
  2. ^ "Mary Gardner obituary". The Shreveport Times. January 13, 2017. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b Adam Kealoha Causey, "Police headquarters renamed Gardner Building", Shreveport Times, May 31, 2008
Political offices
Preceded by
Edwin Ford Hunter, Jr.
Member of the Louisiana House of Representatives for Caddo Parish (at-large)

James Creswell Gardner, I
1952–1954

Succeeded by
Frank Fulco
Preceded by
Clyde Edward Fant, Sr.
Mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana

James Creswell Gardner, I
1954–1958

Succeeded by
Clyde Edward Fant, Sr.
Preceded by
New position under home rule charter
Member of the Shreveport City Council for District B

James Creswell Gardner, I
1978–1982

Succeeded by
Dee Peterson