James Carson Gardner

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For the Democratic former mayor of Shreveport and former Louisiana state representative, see James C. Gardner.
Jim Gardner
Jim Gardner.png
Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina
In office
January 7, 1989 – January 9, 1993
Governor Jim Martin
Preceded by Bob Jordan
Succeeded by Dennis Wicker
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 4th district
In office
January 3, 1967 – January 3, 1969
Preceded by Harold Cooley
Succeeded by Nick Galifianakis
Personal details
Born (1933-04-08) April 8, 1933 (age 83)
Rocky Mount, North Carolina, U.S.
Political party Republican
Alma mater North Carolina State University

James Carson "Jim" Gardner (born April 8, 1933) is a North Carolina businessman and politician who served as a U.S. Representative (1967–1969) and as the 30th Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina (1989–1993).

Business career[edit]

In May 1961, Gardner, along with Leonard Rawls, opened the first franchise store of the fast food restaurant Hardee's in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.[1] Later, in 1969, he bought the troubled Houston Mavericks of the American Basketball Association and moved them to North Carolina a year later as the Carolina Cougars.[2][3]

Political career[edit]

Active in Republican politics from the days the party barely existed in North Carolina, Gardner first made a splash when he ran for Congress in 1964 and nearly defeated 30-year Democratic incumbent Harold D. Cooley, the powerful chairman of the United States House Committee on Agriculture.[4] In 1966, Gardner (by then chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party) toppled Cooley by a shocking 13-point margin to represent a district that included Raleigh as well as his home in Rocky Mount.[5]

He was an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of North Carolina in 1968, 1972, and 1992. In both 1968 and in 1992, he won the Republican nomination, but lost to Democrats Robert W. Scott[6] and Jim Hunt,[7] respectively. In 1972, he lost the nomination to Jim Holshouser,[8] the first of only two Republican governors of North Carolina of the 20th century.

Lieutenant Governor[edit]

In 1988, Gardner defeated Democrat Tony Rand[9] and became the first Republican elected lieutenant governor since Charles A. Reynolds, who served from 1897 to 1901. Gardner served from Jan. 1989 through Jan. 1993, during the second term of Republican Governor James G. Martin. In response to the election of Republican Gardner, the Democratic-controlled General Assembly transferred many of the powers of the Lieutenant Governor over to the President Pro Tempore of the North Carolina Senate.[10]

Political activity after retirement[edit]

In September 2011, Gardner endorsed the (ultimately unsuccessful) 2012 candidacy of Wake County Commissioner Tony Gurley for lieutenant governor.[11] As an "elder statesman," Gardner has been called one of the “Four Jims” of the North Carolina Republican establishment, the others being former Governors Holshouser and Martin and former U.S. Sen. Jim Broyhill. (Holshouser died in 2013)[12] In January 2013, Gardner served as master of ceremonies at the inauguration ceremony for newly elected Gov. Pat McCrory, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and other members of the North Carolina Council of State.[13] The ceremony celebrated the return of Republicans to the governor's office for the first time since Gardner's defeat in 1992. Forest also became the first Republican Lieutenant Governor since Gardner (Democrats Dennis Wicker, Beverly Perdue, and Walter Dalton served in the post after Gardner).

At age 79, Gardner came out of retirement when McCrory appointed him chairman of the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (a full-time position) in 2013.[14]


External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Harold Cooley
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 4th congressional district

Succeeded by
Nick Galifianakis
Party political offices
Preceded by
Robert Gavin
Republican Party nominee for Governor of North Carolina
Succeeded by
Jim Holshouser
Preceded by
Jim Martin
Republican Party nominee for Governor of North Carolina
Succeeded by
Robin Hayes
Political offices
Preceded by
Bob Jordan
Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina
Succeeded by
Dennis Wicker