Hon. Frederick Dozier Gardner, who in 1921 retired from the office of governor of Missouri after a four years’ term spent as chief executive of the state, was born in Hickman, Kentucky, November 6, 1869, a son of William H. and Mary Ellen (Dozier) Gardner. The father, a native of Weakley county, Tennessee, became a Confederate soldier in the Civil war and while the war was still in progress he wedded Mary Ellen Dozier of Mississippi. They established their home at Hickman, Kentucky, where they became parents of five children. The mother was one of the victims of the yellow fever epidemic of 1878 and the father afterward removed with his family of five children to the old home in Weakley county, Tennessee.
Frederick Dozier Gardner acquired his education in the public schools and left Tennessee at the age of seventeen years to become a resident of St. Louis, where he arrived in the winter of 1886-7. Here he secured employment as a clerk with the St. Louis Coffin Company and while employed by that concern acquainted himself with each and every department of the business, including the measuring, grading and purchase of lumber. He also learned all about wood-working machinery used in the coffin industry and gained a thorough practical knowledge of carpentering, cabinet-making and painting as applied to casket manufacture. He was promoted to the position of bookkeeper and in 1893 became a stockholder in the company, of which later he was elected secretary. He was afterward chosen president, becoming the controlling stockholder, and he is today practically the sole owner of the business, which is one of the leading independent concerns of the kind in the United States. He is likewise extensively interested in casket manufacturing plants at Memphis, Tennessee, Texarkana and Dallas, Texas. His business has been wisely and carefully managed and controlled and has become a source of substantial and gratifying income. Mr. Gardner is also an active and successful stock breeder of Missouri and has engaged in buying, operating and selling farms. In fact this has constituted his relaxation and diversion from the heavy responsibilities of his manufacturing interests. He likewise owns extensive timber lands in Arkansas and has made very judicious investments in all of the property which he holds.
On the 10th of October, 1894, Mr. Gardner was married to Jeanette Vosburgh, of St. Louis, a daughter of the late Jacob Vosburgh, a retired manufacturer of this city. The family came originally from Holland, while Jacob Vosburgh was a native of Pennsylvania. To Mr. and Mrs. Gardner have been born three children: William King, born September 5, 1898, was educated in the public schools of St. Louis, in the Smith Academy and in the law department of the University of Missouri, in which he completed a course with the class of 1921; Dozier Lee, born June 19, 1902, was educated in the St. Louis public schools, the Smith Academy, the Mexico (Mo.) Military Academy and is now a student in the University of Missouri of the class of 1923; Janet, the youngest of the family, was born January 11, 1907, and is also in school.
In the spring of 1913 Mr. Gardner was elected a member of the board of freeholders of St. Louis and aided in drafting the present charter of the city. He has always given his political allegiance to the democratic party and has for many years exercised much influence over public thought and action in this connection. In 1916 he became his party’s nominee for the office of governor and was the choice of the people at the ensuing election, so that he entered upon a four years’ term as chief executive of the state. Aside from the important work which Governor Gardner did through the momentous period of the World war-a work that is now a matter of history-he figured in many important semi-public and social connections and in the latter was most ably assisted by his wife, who bears the reputation of being one of the beautiful women of Missouri. She is a home maker and a mother and her natural grace and charm of manner render her a most pleasing hostess. Governor and Mrs. Gardner acted as host and hostess to the King and queen of the Belgians on the visit of the royal couple to St. Louis in November, 1919. Governor Gardner also presented to General Pershing on his visit to St. Louis on the 22d of December, 1919, a medal awarded by the state of Missouri in recognition of his service as commander of the American forces in the World war. He is a thirty-second degree Mason, holding membership in Ascalon Commandery, in the St. Louis Consistory and in Moolah Temple of the Mystic Shrine. He also belongs to the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of St. Louis and to the Knights of Pythias, and both he and his wife are active members of- the Methodist Episcopal church. While for four years, during his executive service, they resided at Jefferson City, they have always regarded St. Louis as their home and have recently returned to Missouri’s metropolis, from which place Mr. Gardner is supervising his extensive business interests, for he is after all preeminently a business man and one who has displayed marked discernment, keen sagacity and notable executive ability in the successful control of his affairs.