John P. Gardner Jr.
DARLINGTON — On Nov. 22, 2020, John P. Gardner Jr. was welcomed into the arms of his Heavenly Father after a three-year battle with cancer. For any who knew him, this was the realization of a lifelong communion with God here on Earth and we are certain he arrived in peace, joy and celebration. John was born of the late Honorable John “Jack” P. Gardner Sr. and Lucilee Arthur Gardner in Florence Aug. 30, 1952. He attended Wofford College as a legacy member of the Sigma Nu Fraternity and then completed Law School at the University of South Carolina. Following graduation, he was the youngest member at that time ever elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives, and one of only four son and father pairs to both serve as representatives. After successfully instating the South Carolina Court of Appeals, he joined his father as the third generation Gardner to lead the Gardner Law Firm. John grew his law practice into one of the largest regional firms in South Carolina with six locations across the state and that practice was recognized for having the Most Dignified Marketing Campaign in the Country by the American Bar Association. He continued to serve his lifelong home state as commissioner for the Department of Highways and Public Transportation and chairman of the Highway Patrol Committee. Seeing his fellow Darlingtonians walking on the sidewalk that connects the Darlington Country Club with downtown would always bring a smile to his face; it was one of his projects he spoke about most often. John found his purpose in providing the path and the means for everyone to realize their own potential. He began this work in his early career and expanded it through a daily television segment that ran for more than five years called “Designing a Life That Works.” He authored four books: “Chicken Soup for the Entrepreneurial Soul,” “Living at the Summit,” “If You Are Me, Then Who Am I?” and “Bound in the Bible.” In the late 1990s, he joined The People’s Network to further his personal development and from that grew a career with LegalShield, dedicating the next 20-plus years to enabling equal access to justice for every person. John had the opportunity to engage with many thousands of people throughout his life, and each one of them became a part of his story. He was convicted by your individual journeys and worked tirelessly every day in pursuit of creating a better world through his work. His signature assertion, “You’re not thinking big enough,” became a moniker to inspire anyone he spoke with to believe in themselves and their future beyond any limit. At the height of his speaking career, it was a chant that rang through crowds around the country. More recently, you could spot him around town by his license plate TNKBIGR, a wink toward that very phrase. He is survived by his beloved wife of almost 30 years, Elizabeth Dickerson Gardner, as well as his son Bryant P. (Mary Beth) Gardner, his granddaughter E. Camille Gardner, his daughter E. Peden (Quinton) Gray, his son E. Burch “Burt” Hughes, his son D. Wade (Jessica) Hughes, his grandchildren Emma L. and Thomas W. Hughes, as well as countless friends who became family across his life. He is preceded in death by his parents, his sister Harriett Gardner Watson and his son Younger John Huntington Gardner. We remember John for his laugh, though he was truly defined by his boundless belief in others, a conviction born out of his life and his faith. It was that belief that drove him to defend the people he represented as an attorney, to continue in pursuit of equal justice for all in his 20 plus years with LegalShield, and that provided the fuel for his constant dedication to supporting others. He was a Gideon, recurrent participant in the Kairos Prison Ministry, and a leader of his Bible study at St. Matthew’s Church. Privately, though, you would find him in his favorite chair every morning poring over the Word, writing notes in the margins of dozens of Bibles to each of his family members. His truest legacy will live on through all of us inspired by the words bound in those bibles. John’s life reminds us of the kind of community you can cultivate through faith and service and we are grateful that we can carry forward his lasting example. Through Toys for Tots, medical ministry, prison ministry, Thanksgiving baskets, Samaritan’s Purse, his church, the Gideons, notes to his friends, books for his life, mentoring, the lessons and legacy of his Bibles, and so much more, he quietly but steadfastly poured his heart and his influence into creating a greater good for all people. The ripple effect of his impact is truly immeasurable. The family would ask that we celebrate his life together. The public service will be held Thursday, Dec. 3, at 2 p.m. at First Baptist Church in Darlington, directed by Kistler-Hardee Funeral Home, and we welcome friends to join us following the service at the South of Pearl, 117 Edwards Ave., Darlington. His greatest hope is that we would carry forward in service of each other and trust that he is free and resting in the everlasting life, joy, love and learning of Our Father Almighty. Every night, John spoke the following over his children while holding hands with Elizabeth and it only felt appropriate that we send you forward with his belief for all of you: Psalm 23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.