Chris Gardner’s Early Biography
Born to Bettye Jean Gardner and Thomas Turner on February 9, 1954 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Chris Gardner spent his childhood not knowing his own father. His stepfather, Freddie Triplett, was his only male role model where he experience physical abuse together with his siblings. He was placed in foster care when his mother was falsely accused by Triplett for welfare fraud.
He returned to foster care when his mother attempted to kill his stepfather by burning their house while he was inside. Among the things that he experienced as a child are sexual abuse, illiteracy, and domestic violence. But these, however, did not dampen the spirit of the man. He believed that his past experiences don’t define who he is and he charted a different path to attain who he is today.
The later part of the 1960s and early part of 1970s was a time of musical and political stimulation for Chris Gardner. He became acutely aware of the African–American situation, the Sharpeville massacre, and the apartheid in South Africa. He also became engrossed with other international issues of racism. He was good at playing the trumpet and enjoyed music by Buddy Miles, Sly Stone, James Brown and Miles Davis whom he wanted to emulate.
Among his inspirations are Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X who greatly developed his sense of black pride. But it was his own mother who truly inspired him. Bettye Gene Gardner, despite her constant absence and unhappy marriage, provided him with the spiritual genetics to pursue his goals to become what he is today.
She encouraged her son to rely on nobody else but himself and helped him develop his bullheaded spirit and his ability to stick to his goals even in life’s bleakest moments. Bettye used to tell Chris, “Son, the cavalry ain’t coming. You’ve got to do this yourself.” Although the odds are against him most of the time, he came out victorious and became an inspiration for others of similar mold.
Life as a Soldier
Inspired by his Uncle Henry's stories of adventures when he was in the US Navy, Chris Gardner enlisted after graduating from High School. For the next four years, he was stationed in North Carolina at Camp Lejeune as a naval corpsman. In 1974, shortly after discharged, he met the decorated Cardiac Surgeon, Dr. Robert Ellis whom he assisted with various groundbreaking clinical research at the Veterans Administration Hospital and University of California Medical Center in San Francisco, California.
For the next couple of years, Chris learned to perform various surgical techniques and how to manage a laboratory. He co-authored and published various academic journals with Dr. Ellis in 1976 and was given a full charge of the lab. With all his connections and experience in the medical field, his plans of becoming a doctor was all set for Chris.
Chris Gardner, Jr. is Born
On June 18, 1977, he married Sherry Dyson, a mathematician from Virginia. It was during this time that Chris realized that a lot of things can change in the medical field while he spent the next 10 years in medical school. He then abandoned all dreams of becoming a doctor and decided to pursue a more lucrative career. Their marriage was not a happy one though; they were detached and there were a lot of incompatibilities with their behaviors. It was also during this time that Chris began to have an affair with Jackie Medina, who became pregnant just a few months into the affair. He left Sherry after three years of marriage and moved in with Jackie and became the father of Chris Jr. who was born on January 28, 1981.
Chris Gardner’s Rags-to-Riches Story
The financial demands of having to support a newborn son and a live-in girlfriend prompted Chris to find a second job as a medical equipment salesman. It was in 1981 that he met Bob Bridges, a stockbroker who introduced him to the nuke and cranny of the financial world.
Determined to give his son a better life, he left his job as a salesman and learned brokerage through the training programs at Dean Witter Reynolds. It was during this time that he lost his home because his meager income as a trainee can no longer support their cost of living. As if homelessness wasn’t enough, his son’s mother, Jackie Medina, left him. But the spirit of the warrior cannot be deterred, Chris Gardner despite this bleak circumstances, was determined to keep his son.
Founding Gardner Rich in 1987
The tides of life began to turn towards his side around 1983 to 1987, when he started working as a stockbroker at Bear Stearns and Co. The same tenacity and determination to pursue the goal he has set for himself and his son enabled him to work hard and, eventually, he was hailed a top earner.
He founded Gardner Rich in 1987, a brokerage firm, from his own home in Chicago with a startup capital of $10,000. From servicing Taft Hartley plans and public pension funds, Gardner Rich expanded its operations to corporate underwriting and trading in global market.
Writing the Story of His Life in the “The Pursuit of Happyness”
From being homeless in the early 1980s to becoming a successful entrepreneur in 2006, he passed life’s exams with flying colors. All the facets of the inspiring story of this man’s life were documented in his autobiography, “The Pursuit of Happyness” in 2006, which became Washington Post and New York Times number one bestseller.
In December of the same year, Columbia Pictures released the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” with Will Smith playing Chris Gardner who received Golden Globe, Academy Awards and Screen Actors Guild nominations for an exemplary performance. In 2006, Chris Gardner sold Gardner Rich and Founded Christopher Gardner International Holdings where he served as CEO.
Chris Gardner Gives Oprah Winfrey Parental Quotes
Chris Gardner soon rose to fame as a motivational speaker, becoming somewhat of a celebrity Among those who interviewed him was Oprah Winfrey. Oprah is known for her rapport talk and she got the passionate father talking about parenting. In the interview, his views about child rearing stood out:
"I knew that I wanted to break the cycle of men who were not there for their children," Chris says. "I knew how I was treated. That was so important to me... That's the beauty of the whole thing—it ended here… So his children, my grandchildren, great grandchildren, they're going to know all of this life that we have here today is different and better because of our great grandfather. And that's important to me." (Source: Oprah.com)
Chris Gardner’s Net Worth Allows Him to Give Back
Today, Chris is currently valued at 60 million dollars, which is quite a leap from being penniless. He is busy as a philanthropist, sponsoring programs like the Cara Program and the Glide Memorial United Methodist Church. He continues to inspire people through his keynote speeches in organizations like the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance.
On 2010, he visited Ghana South Africa, delivering speeches that never fail to inspire especially the young people of the country. The light that is Chris Gardner continues to shine as a beacon that guides travelers because he is also a traveler that reached his destination and graduated life with his head held high.
- Sponsors various philanthropic programs like the Cara Program
- Sponsor shelter programs at the Glide Memorial United Methodist Church
- He has helped provide funding for a $50 million low-income livelihood and housing project in San Francisco
- Serves on the board of the NFI (National Fatherhood Initiative)
- He has served in various capacities at various foundations including National Education Foundation Board, Education Association's National Educational Support Personnel Award, The American Federation of Teachers' Paraprofessionals and School-Related Personnel Award.
- Recipient of the 25th Annual Humanitarian Award
- Founder and CEO of Gardner Rich & Co
- He received the Father of the Year Award from the NFI
- Founder and CEO of Christopher Gardner International Holdings