The Politician

Gardner’s Political Positions:
  • State Senator—1912 to 1916
  • Lt. Governor of NC—1916 to 1920
  • Defeated for Governor by Cameron Morrison—1920
  • Elected Governor of NC—1928-1932
  • Chairman Board War Mobilization-1943-45
  • UnderSecretary of US Treasury—1946-47
  • Ambassador to Great Britain–1947
Gardner’s Political Accomplishments:
  • Consolidation of N.C. State, UNC at Chapel Hill, and NC College for Women in Greensboro into a Single University System
  • Enactment of a State Worker’s Compensation Act
  • Formation of the NC Highway Patrol
  • Assumption of Maintenance All State Roads
  • Assumption of Pay for All Teachers
  • Implementation of the Australian (Secret) Ballot
  • Foundation of Gardner-Webb University
“Governor O. Max Gardner on Running for Public Office Gov. O. Max Gardner, who held the position from 1929 to 1933, once described the process of running for governor as follows: ‘They expect you to kiss the ass of everybody in North Carolina with the understanding that when you become governor, they will all have to kiss yours. My problem has always been that I only kiss my wife, my children and my dogs and I have never let any living soul kiss my ass. I guess that is part of why I lost the race for Governor in 1920. The biggest reasons, of course, were my support of the rights of women to vote and of blacks to work and vote freely. I must have won in 1929 because the number of required asses to be kissed had been reduced.'”News and Observer Archives
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A staunch Democrat he served as Senator of North Carolina in 1910 and 1915. One of the local bills that he introduced was the incorporation of Boiling Springs where later the Baptist High School would become Gardner-Webb College. In 1917 he became Lieutenant Governor. Gardner voted favorably to help ratify the women’s suffrage amendment in 1920

He bypassed running for governor in 1924 out of respect for the east-west tradition since the next governor was to come from eastern Carolina.

On January 11, 1929 Gardner was inaugurated as Governor. He was a progressive thinker and was responsible for the reorganization of the State government, by unifying the highways, forming the highway patrol, consolidating the University of NC, establishing voting by secret ballot, doubling the allotment to schools, creating a Tax Commission, extending the constitutional school term, passing a worker’s compensation law, and abolishing a State tax on real property. During the Depression he was also started a “live at home program” to encourage farmers the raising of other foodstuffs and livestock and not just relying on tobacco and cotton as their only cash crops. By the end of his term Gardner managed to cut costs and keep his state looking toward the future.

After leaving office Gardner became a very successful lawyer-lobbyist in Washington D. C.

In 1946 he was appointed ambassador to the Court of St. James. But unfortunately on the night he was to sail to London to assume the duties he suffered a fatal heart attack.

246. Address of President Truman at the State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, North Carolina:

October 19, 1948

Governor Cherry, distinguished guests, and fellow Democrats of North Carolina:

I can’t tell you how very much I appreciate the most cordial welcome I have received in the capital city of this great State today. Your Governor has been exceedingly kind and cordial to me, and to my family, and we have spent a most pleasant morning. The Governor took us to the Governor’s Mansion for luncheon, and I want to say to you that it was some luncheon. Outside of Missouri, I never saw another one like it.

I am happy to be on this platform today with all these good North Carolina Democrats who are serving the Nation. To hear the chairman call the roll, it sounded as if North Carolina is running the Nation. If they had the Presidency, they would be. I have had some very fine friends from North Carolina, and I would like to name all of them, if I could, but it would take the rest of the afternoon, and I wouldn’t have a chance to make my speech schedule.

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.

WEBB: I do not know what happened, not very much of what happened, before I went over to the Budget (Bureau). I was working in the Treasury as executive assistant to the Undersecretary, and had known Fred Vinson, the Secretary, and Max Gardner, the Undersecretary for a long period of time and had had fairly intimate discussions with them. We had a little group that used to meet about once a month. Some people from New York, from various parts of the country including Senator Walter George and Fred Vinson and Governor Gardner, [2] would meet to have a few drinks and talk about the state of the world. So I had known a little bit about the government and how things were going, because there was a good deal of discussion of President Truman and how he was approaching the presidency and so forth — in those early days.

But my personal knowledge really stems from August of 1946, when President Truman asked me to take over the Budget. So while I am aware there was a period in which there appeared to be some confusion, I became aware as soon as I got to Bureau of the Budget, that a good many of the papers that we were sending over for the President’s consideration were being — or — pawed over by the people around the White House before they got to the President, and I made a very clear determination that I was going to deal directly with the President. I wasn’t going to take second hand instructions, say from Harry Vaughan or anybody else in the White House on the important matters that were my responsibility; but that I would deal in the White House with anyone the President appointed to handle the matter just as if he were the President; that I would give him the same service from the Bureau that we would give the President were he personally doing it; and that we would look forward to try to forecast from our knowledge of government, the problems that he was likely to face in the months ahead, so that we could start staff work in advance of having the matter


North Carolina Executive Mansion Gentlemen’s Parlor and Ladies’ Parlor

In the early days, governors would entertain their guests in the dining room and after dinner retire to the South Drawing Room, where gentlemen would smoke, drink, and talk about politics. The ladies often drifted across the hall to escape the smoke and political talk. Thus developed the practice of male guests gathering in one parlor and female guests gathering in another. Soon the rooms came to be informally referred to as the Ladies’ Parlor and the Gentlemen’s Parlor. Although today’s guests of the governor, both male and female, use both rooms, the rooms still bear their old names as a bow to history and tradition. They continue to be decorated in the manner related to their historic titles.

Gentleman's Parlor

Gentlemen’s Parlor

One of the two “withdrawing rooms” in the mansion, the Gentlemen’s Parlor features Chinese Chippendale decor. It also contains several items symbolic of North Carolina, including the Boehm porcelain cardinals and the “Blackbeard” Stueben urn. The carpet was designed for this room and hand hooked in Tryon, North Carolina. Each corner contains a medallion representing an event significant in the state’s history. Those events are: Desoto’s 1540 exploration of the North Carolina mountains; the first “Roanoke Voyage” in 1585, sent to what is now North Carolina by Sir Walter Raleigh to prepare for the establishment of a permanent colony in the New World; the 1795 opening of the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), the first state supported university in the United States; and the first powered flight by the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk in 1903. The chandelier was purchased in New York City and its mate hangs in the Ladies’ Parlor. The room features some eighteenth-century furniture, including a gaming table with circular wells on the corners for candlesticks, and oval wells for game pieces.


Ladies’ Parlor

Traditionally a haven for ladies, this room is furnished in the classical manner of the eighteenth century. The Ladies’ Parlor is a reflection of the Gentlemen’s Parlor, with matching mantel, chandelier, and over-mantel mirror. The pianoforte was built in the 1830s by Wesley Whitaker, a Raleigh piano maker, and is one of the few signed North Carolina pieces in existence. During the term of Gov. Angus McLean (1925-1929), Mrs. McLean had a powder room added to the Ladies’ Parlor. Until then there was not a restroom on the first floor. In 1929, during the residency of Gov. and Mrs. O. Max Gardner, New York governor Franklin D. Roosevelt-later the nation’s thirty-second president-visited the mansion, requiring that this room be used as a bedroom because of his disability (a result of the disease known as polio).

Gardner’s death in 1947

St. Regis Hotel, NY, NY February 6, 1987 8:25 a.m.

Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri:
“Max was from the wrong state–but what a President he would have made.”

Drew Pearson, Most Famous Political Commentator of the Time
“That was Max Gardner who always enjoyed sitting on the front porch of Webbley in a rocking chair given to him by the Negroes who only Max would employ way back in 1915, and who now sets sail for a great new destination where he can sit and rock and loaf around God’s thrown. He was one of a kind. There will not be another.”

Luther Hodges, later Governor of North Carolina
“I was working at Marshall Field in New York when Max died. I remember Max coming by in the last hectic days and inviting me and Marshall to come over to London and help Miss Fay decorate the embassy. Meaning, of course, at the expense of Marshall Field and Company.”

Gardner’s final words before he retired on February 4, 1947 around 10:00 p.m.
“I am tired but have felt a keen obligation to all of our wonderful friends for this tremendous send-off. I also appreciate the many kind courtesies offered to me by President Truman the First Lady. Yes, I may be tired but kindness never killed anybody.”