O Max Gardner

Oliver Max Gardner (1882-1947) was a politician, businessman, and lawyer of Shelby, N.C., Raleigh, N.C., and Washington, D.C. A 1903 graduate of the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, Gardner studied law, 1905-1906, at the University of North Carolina, and, in 1907, opened a law practice in Shelby, N.C., where he also founded the Shelby Cloth Mills (later renamed the Cleveland Cloth Mills), the Gardner Land Company, and other businesses; he also operated a farm.

Active in the Democratic Party, he was elected a North Carolina state senator in 1910 and 1915, lieutenant governor in 1916, and governor in 1929. In 1934, Gardner moved to Washington, D.C., and established Gardner, Morrison & Rogers, a law firm representing the interests of the textile, soft-drink, and aviation industries, among others. He later served as chair of the United States Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion’s Advisory Board, 1945-1946; as undersecretary of the United States Treasury, 1946; and as ambassador-elect to England, December 1946-February 1947. He was also a director of the Sperry Corporation and a member of the board of trustees of North Carolina State College and the University of North Carolina. With his wife, Fay Gardner, he helped build an endowment for Boiling Springs Junior College (renamed Gardner-Webb College) in Boiling Springs, N.C.

Fay Webb Gardner (1885-1969), civic leader and first lady of North Carolina, married Gardner in 1907. Fay Lamar Webb was the daughter of Judge James L. Webb and Kansas Webb, one of the most prominent families in Western North Carolina. She was active in women’s organizations in Shelby, N.C., Raleigh, N.C., and Washington, D.C., and in the state and national Democratic Party, representing the state twice as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. She also served on the North Carolina State Advisory Board of Paroles, as president of the Gardner Foundation, Inc. (which helped support Gardner-Webb College), and as a trustee of the school.

“There is one in particular I would like to mention, however, and one I made Under Secretary of the Treasury, and I also appointed him to be Ambassador to Great Britain. He was a former Governor of North Carolina—Max Gardner—a wonderful man.”President Harry S. Truman
Address at the State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, North Carolina 1948

The Gardners had four children: Margaret Love Gardner Burgess (b. 1908), who married N. E. Burgess; James Webb Gardner (1910-1946), who married Iris Rollins; Ralph Webb Gardner (b. 1912); and O. Max Gardner, Jr. (1922-1961), who married Sara Mull. Ralph Webb Gardner graduated from Yale University Law School and practiced law in Shelby, N.C. Elected a state senator in 1939, he enlisted in the United States Army during World War II. James Webb Gardner was executive vice-president of Cleveland Cloth Mills, 1941-1946. O. Max Gardner, Jr., a graduate of North Carolina State College, was commissioned a lieutenant in the United States Army. After World War II, he helped manage the Cleveland Cloth Mills and was treasurer of Gardner-Webb College.

ezra_bridgesShe worked for the Governor as a domestic servant from 1917 to 1932. The Governor then urged her to seek a higher education and paid for her to attend and graduate from Columbia University.

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