Christopher Paul Gardner

Topics: Chris Gardner, The Pursuit of Happyness, Dean Witter Reynolds Pages: 7 (2687 words) Published: July 19, 2011
Christopher Paul Gardner (born February 9, 1954 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) is a entrepreneur, stockbroker, motivational speaker and philanthropist who, during the early 1980s, struggled with homelessness while raising his toddler son, Christopher, Jr.[1] Gardner's book of memoirs, The Pursuit of Happyness, was published in May 2006.[2] As of 2006, he is CEO of his own stockbrokerage firm, Gardner Rich & Co, based in Chicago, Illinois, where he resides when he is not living in Toronto. Gardner credits his tenacity and success to the "spiritual genetics" handed down to him by his mother, Bettye Jean Triplett, born Gardner,[2][3][4] and to the high expectations placed on him by his children, son Chris Jr. (born 1981) and daughter Jacintha (born 1985).[1] Gardner's personal struggle of establishing himself as a stockbroker while managing fatherhood and homelessness is portrayed in the 2006 motion picture The Pursuit of Happyness, starring Will Smith.[4][5] Early years

Gardner was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Thomas Turner and Bettye Jean Gardner. He was the second child born to Bettye Jean, his older half-sister is Ophelia from a previous union; and younger siblings are Sharon and Kimberly, children from his mother's marriage to Freddie Triplett. Gardner did not have many positive male role models as a child, as his father was living in Louisiana during his birth, and his stepfather was physically abusive to his wife and children. Triplett's rages made Gardner and his sisters constantly afraid.[3] In one incident, Bettye Jean was falsely imprisoned when Triplett reported her to the authorities for welfare fraud; the children were placed in foster care. When Gardner was eight years old, he and his sisters returned to foster care a second time when their mother, unbeknownst to them, was convicted of trying to kill Triplett by burning down the house while he was inside.[3][6] While in foster care, Gardner first became acquainted with his three maternal uncles: Archibald, Willie and Henry. Of the three, Henry had the most profound influence on him, entering Gardner's world at a time when he most needed a father figure. Tragically, Henry drowned in the Mississippi River when Chris was nine years old.[2] The children learned that their mother had been imprisoned when she arrived at Henry's funeral escorted by a prison guard.[6] Despite her unhappy marriage and her periods of absence, Bettye Jean was a source of inspiration and strength to her son Chris. She encouraged Gardner to believe in himself and sowed the seeds of self-reliance in him. Gardner quotes her as saying, "You can only depend on yourself. The cavalry ain't coming."[7] Gardner also determined from his early experiences that alcoholism, domestic abuse, child abuse, illiteracy, fear and powerlessness were all things he wanted to avoid in the future.[3] [edit] Early adulthood

The late 1960s and early 1970s was a time of political and musical awakening for Gardner. He developed a deep sense of black pride, as he became familiar with the works of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and Eldridge Cleaver. His world view expanded beyond the African American experience; he learned of historical events such as the Sharpeville massacre, and as a result became increasingly aware of apartheid in South Africa and international racial issues.[2] Gardner learned to play the trumpet and he enjoyed listening to music by Sly Stone, Buddy Miles, James Brown and his all-time favorite, Miles Davis. Inspired by his Uncle Henry's worldwide adventures in the U.S. Navy, Gardner decided to enlist when he finished secondary schooling. He was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina for four years, where he was assigned as a corpsman. He became acquainted with a decorated San Francisco cardiac surgeon, Dr. Robert Ellis, who offered Gardner a position assisting him with innovative clinical research at the University of California Medical Center and Veterans Administration Hospital in San...
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