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Milton's Story

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Mr. Milton Frederick Gardner Sr., 94, passed away Aug. 21, 2017. Funeral services will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday the Williams Funeral Home chapel in Milledgeville with the Rev. Jerry Bradley and the Rev. Larry Glover officiating. Interment will follow in Memory Hill.
The family will receive friends at Williams Funeral Home from 3 to 5 p.m. today.
Milton was born in Eatonton in 1923 to the late Charles Arthur Gardner and Alma Whitten Gardner, and grew up during the Great Depression. In hard times, Milton's father mortgaged the family home but could not make the payments. As a teenager, Milton took a job in the aluminum plant and made the house payments himself. When the debt was paid off, his father later put the house in Milton's name.
At the start of World War II, Milton was inducted into the U.S. Navy. Before leaving the States, he received a medal for bravery and a promotion to the rank of corporal for diving into Boston Harbor in winter to save a drowning sailor. He then served on LST 742 in the South Pacific until the war's end.
After the war, Milton obtained a law degree from Atlanta Law School and began his law practice in Milledgeville in 1947. In this era, defendants were often sentenced to death for offenses that did not involve a homicide. Lawyers in that time were court appointed to represent indigent defendants without pay. Nevertheless, Milton invariably did his best in many unpopular causes even though for years he was not paid anything.
Milton tried scores of murder cases. None of his clients were ever sentenced to death. In court, he had an understated style. He always said that he was not there to impress anyone but only to advance his client's cause. His most famous client was the American spy pilot Francis Gary Powers, whom he represented in a divorce trial.
Milton practiced law for nearly 70 years, serving as judge of the State Court of Baldwin County, attorney for the City of Milledgeville, president of the Baldwin County Bar Association and member of the Board of Governors of the State Bar of Georgia. After 1979, he partnered with his son, Milton F. Gardner Jr. and the two tried many cases together. In 2001, the Supreme Court of Georgia presented Milton the Amicus Curiae award for outstanding service.
Milton was also a real estate developer; he had many projects and several partnerships, most notably with his friend I.M. "Sonny" Goldstein. The firm of Gardner and Goldstein developed North Woods Estates and many other subdivisions. Despite his financial success, he lived very modestly. His frugality was limited entirely to himself; he was extraordinarily generous with other people. He would often give a hand out to anyone he thought needed help. An old man once said that Milton's hand was "always open" when somebody needs money and "the Lord will lay some money in it."
Possessions did not matter to him. Above all, he was passionately dedicated to his family. His most successful partnership was with his wife, Joyce Daniel Gardner, who survives him. They were married for 69 years. He is also survived by his son, Milton Frederick "Rick" Gardner Jr.; daughter, Gail Gardner Arnold; grandchildren, Michael J. Arnold, Daniel S. Gardner, Meredith K. Gardner and Amelia Joyce Gardner; and great-grandchild, Milton Gaynor Arnold, all of Milledgeville.
He was a member of Benevolent Lodge as a Master Mason and a member of First Baptist Church in Milledgeville. He was preceded in death by a sister, Joyce Gardner Griffin, and a brother, Charlie Arthur Gardner Jr.
Flowers accepted and for those who wish, memorial contributions may be made to the Masonic Children's Home.
Express online condolences at www.williamsfuneral.net.
Williams Funeral Home and Crematory of Milledgeville
Published on August 22, 2017
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