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The state flag at the Mississippi Capitol was flown at half staff Sunday in honor of the late Dr. Joe Gardner, whose funeral took place that day in Batesville. Gov. Phil Bryant ordered flags at all state buildings to be lowered “in remembrance of a dedicated Mississippi public servant.” The Panolian photo by Rupert Howell
Speaker: Gardner showed integrity, was kindest rep

By Billy Davis

Rep. Joe Gardner’s integrity and character made him the ideal state legislator to lead the Ethics Committee in the Miss. House of Representatives, Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn said Sunday.

“He was probably the kindest man in the House of Representatives,” Gunn told a crowd that was packed into the Batesville Junior High auditorium.

Gardner, the District 11 state representative, died of a heart attack at his home February 4. He was 68.
Rep. Tyrone Ellis was the other elected official who spoke, recalling that Gardner was a good listener who was always searching for a “teachable moment.”

“He never raised his voice to make a point,” said Ellis.

The funeral service was also sprinkled with pastors that included Rev. Zannie Leland, who delivered a fiery eulogy that compared Gardner to comic book heroes Superman and Batman.

Leland said he remembered Gardner as an “eager” deacon, who enjoyed staying busy, at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church.

“He was always desiring to move to the next level,” Leland recalled.

Gardner became an ordained minister in 2005 and was pastor of Greater Concord Missionary Baptist Church when he passed away.

The choirs of Greater Concord and Macedonia combined on stage to sing three gospel songs during the funeral service.

Other clergy who spoke included Dr. Rubert Morgan, who delivered a prayer of consolation, and ministers Alvin Bailey Sr. and Larry Key, who read from the Old Testament and New Testament respectively.

Sister Georgia Lee Ford read acknowledgments and resolutions, and Macedonia deacon Lygunnah Bean spoke about Gardner.

“If anybody got the most out of life, it was Dr. Gardner,” Bean said, recalling his service in the military, his career as a teacher, and his public service as a school board trustee and state representative.

Speaker Gunn spoke after the combined choir sang “Gospel Ship,” and the state legislator used the song to encourage those at the service to reflect if they were sailing with Gardner.

“We’re left behind, waiting on our day,” said Gunn. “Are you going to be on the gospel ship? Are you destined for heaven or hell?”

The House Speaker, a Republican, spoke well of his late Democratic colleague, explaining why he chose Gardner to chair the Ethics Committee.

“In that position you need of person of high character who’s not influenced by money, race or political party,” said Gunn.

Gunn also recognized state legislators and legislative staff who attended the funeral service, noting that some of them drove from South Mississippi in bad weather to honor Gardner.

“The biggest testimony of Joe Gardner is this room full or people on a rainy afternoon,” Gunn said.

Rep. Earl Banks presented a framed House Resolution to Gardner’s family, wife Ella and daughter Chandra Thompson.

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