Since 1915 Neil Baxter Gardner has been Superintendent of the Oklahoma State Home for Orphans at Pryor. He was first appointed to that position of public service by Governor R. L. Williams, and he discharged his duties with such efficiency during that administration, that he was reappointed by Governor Robertson, with a substantial increase in salary. Mr. Gardner is one of Oklahoma’s sons by adoption, for he was born in Independence, Henderson County, Tennessee, on the 12th of October, 1875. His parents were Nathan A. and Frances Leona (Autry) Gardner, both of whom were born in Tennessee. They are now deceased.
Neil Baxter Gardner received his early education in the common schools of Independence and Juno, Tennessee, and at the age of eighteen years enrolled as a student in the Baptist College, at Lexington. He attended that institution for one year and then enrolled in the Georgie Robertson Christian College, at Henderson, from which he was graduated with the LL. B. degree in 1899. For a few months he engaged in the practice of law with his old instructor, John W. Robertson of Henderson. He later went to Humboldt, Tennessee, and entered the mill and lumber business. For two years he remained in that town and then went to Missouri, locating in Tyler, where the following two years were spent in the conduct of a mercantile business.
Subsequently he came to Arkansas and was for some time associated with Taylor & Gibson in the cotton business at Elgin. Resigning his position with that firm Mr. Gardner removed to Snapp and until the fall of 1903 he was employed with the John Gardner Mercantile Company. In that year he returned to his native state and buying a farm, followed agricultural pursuits-for the next eighteen months. At the termination of that time he sold out his land interests and on the 1st of January, 1905, arrived in Stigler, Indian Territory. Once more he engaged in the mercantile business and he was active in the conduct of an establishment until the summer of 1906; when he became a candidate for delegate of the Ninety-first district to the Constitutional Convention for statehood, and was nominated on the Democratic ticket by a good majority over his four opponents. He served as a member of the convention until 1907 and in that year was appointed by Governor C. N. Haskell as steward of the Western Oklahoma Hospital at Fort Supply, Woodward County. He discharged the duties of that office in a highly satisfactory manner until April, 1916. He then returned to Stigler and engaged in the gin and cotton business. He was active in that capacity at the time of his appointment as Superintendent of the Oklahoma State Home for Orphans at Pryor, in 1915, by Governor R. L. Williams. He has since held that position, his splendid conduct of the affairs of the institution winning his reappointment by Governor Robertson, with a raise in salary. His wife is head matron of the institution and both Mr. and Mrs. Gardner devote their entire time and attention to the improvement of the home.
On Christmas day of the year 1901, Mr. Gardner was united in marriage to Miss Ida Antoinette Crutchfield a daughter of Marion and Martha M. (Corgill) Crutchfield, a prosperous plantation owner near Snapp. Her parents were highly esteemed and beloved citizens of that community, where they died in 1906 and 1913, respectively. To the union of Mr. and Mrs. Gardner five children have been born, three of whom are living: Ida La Nill, was born September 17, 1907, and is residing with her parents; Elmer Charles was born March 31, 1909, at Fort Supply; and Roy R., was born on the 13th of December, 1911, at Fort Supply. The two other children died in infancy. Previous to her marriage, Mrs. Gardner was a teacher in the public schools of Arkansas and Tennessee. She is a woman of much culture and refinement and is well fitted for the position she holds as head matron of the institution.
Since age conferred upon Mr. Gardner the right of franchise he has given his stanch support to the Democratic Party, in the interests of which he has always taken an active and prominent part. Both he and his wife are consistent members of the Methodist Church and he is a generous contributor to its support. Fraternally he is a Scottish Rite Mason and is a member of the Mystic Shrine. During the World war he was chairman of the Mayes County Council of Defense and he was a popular speaker in behalf of the Red Cross and Liberty Loan drives. He never failed to raise either the individual or district quota assigned to him during the drives. His experiences in life have been broad and interesting and success has been his in large measure. He is public-spirited and in many ways has contributed to the general progress and improvement of the community. The methods he employs as Superintendent of the institution will bear the light of close investigation and scrutiny and his fellow citizens honor him with their faith and confidence.