Trooper Gardner honored

Jimmy Gardner (center), father of Trooper Steven K. Gardner who was killed in south Hazlehurst in 1984, and son Clell (left holding paper) stand beneath the sign that marks Hwy. 51 through Hazlehurst as a memorial highway in Steve’s honor on Tuesday. A brief ceremony remember Trooper Gardner was held just before the sign was unveiled on Tuesday morning. MDOT commissioner Dick Hall, fellow troopers who served with Steve, Dist. 76 Rep. Gregory Holloway and others spoke at the ceremony.

BY BONNIE L. JACKSON

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
John 15:[13]
Trooper Steve Gardner Memorial Highway was dedicated Tuesday in Hazlehurst.  Gardner was killed by a man he arrested earlier in the day, as he was filling out paperwork in his patrol car on the night of Friday, March 23, 1984.
The place where the ceremony was held, on Hwy. 51 south at the Sinclair Street intersection in Hazlehurst, now bears the sign marking the hallowed ground where Steven K. Gardner paid the ultimate price to protect and serve his community.   Another sign has been erected at the northern city limit of the town, about 1 mile north of the 28/51 intersection.
“He gave what God gave him, his life,” poignantly stated Dist. 76 Rep. Greg Holloway, Sr. who served as the program’s emcee.
The gathering was composed of Jimmy and Clell Gardner–Steven’s father and brother, respectfully–other family members and close friends, local and state officials, community leaders and several law enforcement officers–all of whom braved sweltering heat to pay their respect.
Joe Buck Coates, publisher of the Copiah County Courier and past-president of the Hazlehurst Chamber of Commerce, worked closely with Rep. Holloway to finally pay tribute to Trooper Gardner. “Mr. Bell from Crystal Springs actually called me with the idea.  His phone call jarred my memory of this event.  (He was 13 at the time),” Coates said.
Mayor Henry Banks, the Board of Aldermen, and the Copiah County Board of Supervisors all showed their support earlier in the year by writing letters of support of the memorial to Dick Hall, Central District Transportation Commissioner.  Holloway attached the language to have the highway renamed in HB 251, which was passed by both House and Senate and signed into law by Governor Haley Barbour in April.
Commissioner Hall, Rep. Holloway, Coates, Mayor Banks and three of Gardner’s former classmates all paid tribute to the fallen officer.  Prayers were led by Bro. David Steveline, Pastor of Hazlehurst UMC and Elder Albert Stokes, pastor of St. Peter COCH (USA) in Hazlehurst.
Jimmy Gardner, now 84, could barely turn for officers coming to him offering to do whatever they could for him whenever he needed it.  Their pledge to Mr. Gardner was “we are just a phone call away, if you need anything don’t hesitate to call us.” 
His wife and Steven’s mother Jamie did not live to see this day. She died of cancer in 2009.
Present also in the crowd was Steven’s fiance’ at the time of his death, Lisa Tompkins who flew in from her life and family in Chicago just to join Jimmy for the event.
Finally, as Commissioner Hall stated, “this ceremony was slow in coming, but now these signs will tell the story of a man whose last act was to ensure that no one else would bear the brunt of a misguided person.”
Trooper Steven K. Gardner truly is an example worth following because he followed the example of Christ by giving his life for so that others might live in peace.  

Leave a Comment