History of the Restoration Movement

Elmer Claude Gardner


Obituary For E. Claude Gardner

E. Claude Gardner, 92, of Henderson, went home to be with the Lord Sunday, December 31, 2017. Funeral services will be conducted on Saturday, January 6 at 2:00 p.m. at Loyd Auditorium on the campus of Freed Hardeman University. Visitation will be from 4:00–9:00 p.m. on Friday January 5 at the Henderson Church of Christ building and from 11:00 A. M.–1:00 p.m. at Loyd Auditorium on January 6.

E. Claude Gardner was born January 16, 1925, to O.A. and Edna Gardner. He was valedictorian of his high school class in Marmaduke, Arkansas. He graduated with a junior college degree in Bible from Freed Hardeman College in 1944. In 1945 Gardner married the former Delorese Tatum, having met her in Chapel Hall when they were both students at Freed Hardeman.

Gardner graduated with honors from Abilene Christian College in 1946. After receiving a master's degree at Southwest Texas University, he began his teaching career in 1948 in the Rosiclare, Illinois public school system. The following year N.B. Hardeman hired him to head the Department of Education and Psychology and to teach Bible at Freed Hardeman College.

Dr. Gardner moved into administration in 1950, when he assumed the duties of Registrar in addition to his teaching responsibilities. He became Dean of the college in 1956 and second in command of the school, remaining Dean-Registrar until 1969 when he was named Vice President of Freed Hardeman. He became president 1969. He served as Chancellor from 1990-92 and then became President Emeritus. Gardner received five honorary doctorates during his tenure.

During his distinguished 21-year presidency, Dr. Gardner was a student-oriented administrator, beginning and sponsoring several campus organizations. He promoted dramatics, speech activities, music programs and academic and honor clubs, always stressing his “doctrine of continuous improvement." As a successful fund-raiser he was able to expand all phases of the college, resulting in full academic accreditation, the move from junior college to senior college in 1976, to university status, offering master degrees in teacher education and ministry by 1990, and more than a dozen new buildings on campus.

At the influence of his parents and Elza Huffard, Gardner, who began his preaching career at age 15, has since preached for several congregations both in this country and abroad. He has conducted 375 gospel meetings, written 500 articles for religious publications, and has authored eight books.

Dr. Gardner has also been very active in the community, serving as a founder of the Chester County Senior Citizens Group, the Chester County Chamber of Commerce, and the Chester County Crime-stoppers, and he served on the Board of Directors of the Chester County Bank.

A man of resolute determination with a clear vision of what he hoped the University could become, he strove 43 years to make that vision a reality. Perhaps no other president has possessed the same breadth of experience and intimate knowledge of Freed Hardeman. Gardner was known to close chapel services at the university with the words, "Shall we go?" Those three words reflect the forward-stepping approach evident in his life and work. At age 92 he was still seen at campus events and remained keenly interested in the progress and future of Freed Hardeman University.

Dr. Gardner is survived his four children: Phyllis (Sam) Hester, Becky (Larry) Cyr, Claudia Goodson (Steve Kubik), and David (Pat) Gardner; grandchildren Kristen (Jeremy) Hicks, Beth (Julio) Rivas, Adam (Tosha) Cyr, Nick (Cait) Gardner, Bennett Gardner (fiancé Julie), and Madison Gardner; great grandchildren Tucker Cyr, Breanne Gardner and Tessa Moore.

He is preceded in death by his parents, his wife of 56 years Delorese, and second wife, Glenda Jacobs Gardner, and his brothers, Stanley, Don, and Albert, and sister, Ethel Jordan.

Memorials may be made to the E. Claude and Delorese Gardner Scholarship at Freed Hardeman University.

Shackelford Funeral Directors of Henderson
Henderson, TN

Source: Shackelford Funeral Home Website

E. Claude Gardner


Long before computers with endless memory storage, Freed-Hardeman had its own data bank, owned and operated by former president E. Claude Gardner. He knew and could recall, it seemed, every person who had been affiliated with Freed-Hardeman - a valuable resource in his raising funds for the university, I’m sure. He knew who you were, where you came from and where your mama went to church. And, some would say, he also knew your position on brotherhood issues. Even as his body grew weaker, that amazing memory never failed.

Coupled with his knowledge of people, Bro. Gardner had a clear vision of what Freed-Hardeman should be - and a determination not to be underestimated when it came to moving that vision to reality. Consider: he pushed for accreditation by a national agency when the university had no accreditation, he mandated a transition to a senior college when FHC was a small junior college, and he drove us from college to university status by adding graduate programs. Some of us were taken along kicking and screaming, but, as my husband has said, “More often than not, Bro. Gardner was right and we were wrong.”

Literally to his dying day, he had plans for the future: plans to write books, plans for sermons he still wanted to preach and ideas (which he shared) for what the university, as well as the community, should do. In chapel, he sometimes used the analogy of pushing a ball up a mountain, saying every day we should push it up a little higher. Forever a forward thinker, he was a true believer in the doctrine of continuous improvement, and Freed-Hardeman, Henderson and Chester County are all the better for it.

Bro. Gardner came as a freshman to Freed-Hardeman College in 1942. N.B. Hardeman was president. In 1949, he joined the faculty, having been hired by Hardeman. With Bro. Gardner’s death, possibly the last direct link to the man who was the driving force behind the college for 50 years has been broken. If Bro. Gardner has his way, however, Hardeman will not be forgotten. He always insisted that the school was named for two great men - A.G. Freed and N.B. Hardeman. Calling the school just “Freed,” if not heretical, was at least cause for chagrin.

According to his daughter, Phyllis Hester, Bro. Gardner wanted to give something to everyone who came to see him. He subscribed to an unlikely collection of magazines so that when his grandchildren visited, they could leave with a magazine. If he had cooked beans and cornbread and you visited, you were offered cornbread to take with you. Fittingly, at his funeral, his family provided tracts written by Bro. Gardner on how to become a Christian - so we would have something to take with us. I have my tract, and it will be placed alongside my other treasures.

But, Bro. Gardner, you gave us so much more. You gave yourself to people and causes you believed in: the church, your family, the university and Chester County. Your life-long commitment to continuous improvement is an example for all of us. Your dedication to the gospel of Christ and your desire to spread the Word challenge us to keep on working toward that goal. By your life, you gave us our marching orders. We shall go.

-By Nancy Bennett, Faculty / Staff // November 29, 2018, FHU-Seasons Issue 48, Winter 2018-2019


The President In His Office

The President With Guy N. Woods

The President Welcomes B.C. Goodpasture

College Accreditation Photo
LtoR David Thomas, E. Claude Gardner, Henderson Mayor Gene Record, C.P. Roland

LtoR - Jess M. Wilcoxson, John Bob Hall, J. Walker Whittle, President Gardner, David Thomas

Directions To Grave

The Henderson City Cemetery is located near downtown, Henderson Tennessee. Several church workers, gospel preachers, and especially educators who worked for Freed-Hardeman University are buried here. To find the Gardner family plot travel the SE corner, at the rear of the cemetery. It is probably best to enter from N. Franklin Ave. As soon as you see the first graves, stop the car and enter into the cemetery down beside the business that adjoins it. Toward the rear you will see the Gardner plot.

GPS Location
35°26'18.3"N 88°38'40.3"W
35.438419, -88.644538


Rear Of Henderson City Cemetery From SE Cnr.
The Gardner graves are to the left of this photo on top of the hill.

E. Claude - January 16, 1925 - December 31, 2017
Delorese T. - November 4, 1925 - August 29, 2001
Married June 17, 1945

Photos Taken - 02.2019
Webpage produced 11.2019
Courtesy Of Scott Harp

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