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O. Max Gardner plants a treeOliver Maxwell Gardner was born in Shelby, North Carolina on March 22, 1882. His father Dr. Oliver Perry Gardner was a country doctor who had lost everything after the civil war. His mother, Margaret Young Gardner was Dr. O. P. Gardner’s second wife and died when Max was ten years old. Gardner’s maternal great-great grandfather George Blanton was patriarch in common for most of the old families in the area. His wife Fay Webb Gardner was a distant cousin and like him the great grandchild of Burwell Blanton, George Blanton’s son.

Miss Fay was also the daughter of Superior Court Judge James L. Webb and niece of Congressman E. Yates Webb. Along with Max’s older brother, Mayor J. T. Gardner they were dominate political figures in the local area. This group along with his brother-in-law Clyde R. Hoey, and Gardner, became known as the Shelby Dynasty. (see article on “Shelby Dynasty”)

After his father passed away in 1899, Max’s sisters pooled their inheritance to send him to college.

Max Gardner enrolled in the North Carolina A. and M. College in January of 1900. In his junior year he was elected captain of the football team. The play that made him all-Southern tackle came in the fall of 1902 against Clemson when Gardner literally dragged the quarterback over the goal line for his team’s only touchdown.

In 1905 he attended law school at the University of Chapel Hill. And in 1906 he was elected captain of the football team, making him the only man ever elected football captain at competing state-supported colleges. Even though he played for the University at Chapel Hill he was excused from playing in the game against North Carolina A. and M.

In 1907 Max Gardner became a junior law partner of his sister Ollie’s husband, J. A. Anthony in Shelby, NC. Max’s work was mainly a criminal practice defending the poor.

Max and Miss Fay were also married that year. Gardner considered his marriage to her one of the best political decisions he ever made. Miss Fay was one of most popular figures in political circles of the time.

The Gardner’s had four children Margaret Love in 1908, James Webb ”Decker” in 1910, Ralph Webb in 1912 and O. Max Gardner, Jr. in 1922.

Here are links to some interesting facets of the Gardner family legacy:

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