Milton C. Gardner Jr.

Published 11:30 am Thursday, December 20, 2018

Milton C. Gardner Jr.

December 17, 2018

Surrounded by his family, Dr. Milton C. Gardner, Jr, rose to walk in eternal life on December 17, 2018. Dr. Gardner was born to the Reverend Milton C. Gardner, Sr. and Kathleen Weaver Gardner on June 20, 1935, in Albany, Georgia.  He grew up in Americus, Georgia, where he graduated from Americus High School. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from Mercer University, graduating in 1957.  At Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, he obtained a Master of Divinity in the spring of 1960. While in seminary, he met and married Nancy Ann Owen of Owensboro, Kentucky.  They recently celebrated 60 years of marriage.

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He was presented an honorary doctorate by Mercer University. Though he earned the highest degree obtainable in ministry, he was known by most simply as Brother Gardner.  He was both a pastor and preacher, a man who talked and often sang about Jesus.  More importantly, Brother Gardner strived to live like Jesus.  His purpose in life was to point others to the cross and lead them into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ our Savior.  He tenderly guided his flock, always poised to rescue even one lost sheep.

His ministry spanned 60 years, beginning with his ordination at 19 when he pastored a small church in Sumter County, Georgia.  He was called to First Baptist Church Sylvester, Georgia after graduating from seminary.  From there the Lord sent him to First Baptist Church Vidalia, Georgia, where he served for six years.  First Baptist Church Thomasville called him in 1969 where he served until 2001, until his retirement.  At that time, he was named Pastor Emeritus.  He then began serving as an interim pastor to churches across South Georgia, eventually serving 17 in all.

Brother Gardner was also active in the community. He was a member of the Kiwanis Club, served on numerous committees for various organizations, and held positions of leadership. Moreover, he held positions of prominence in the Georgia Baptist Convention and received countless awards and recognition over the course of his lifetime. A friend to all, Brother Gardner, often referred to simply as Milton, was known to be humble, gentle, sensitive, playful, creative, and fiercely competitive!  He could comfort a grieving widow with a gentle touch and whisper a prayer of healing over a suffering patient.  He would often delight young children by plucking a penny from behind one of their ears and could surprise a younger basketball player by netting a 3 pointer despite their defensive efforts.

He loved babies, especially baby girls, at least until his daughters began giving him lots of grandsons.  He enjoyed working with his hands and proved himself an accomplished wood turner and gardener.  He loved music, both making it and listening to it!  His aptitude for music was discovered as a young child.  This affinity blossomed into an insatiable passion!  He loved the innocence of children’s voices, the jubilance of a marching band, the tinkling produced by skilled hands dancing across the ivory keys, and the reverberations of a pipe organ with all the stops pulled!  But most of all, he loved listening to a church choir. Indeed, Dr. Gardner was a great man of God, a faithful servant, devoted husband, loving father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, a cherished brother and uncle, a loyal friend, and a wise counselor.  Many will remember him as the one who led them to Christ, baptized them, counseled them, visited them when sick or grief stricken, married them, or officiated at the funeral of their loved one. He was proud to be a Thomasvillian and loved everything about this community, including her citizens.  His love for UGA football was only exceeded by his passion for the Thomasville Bulldogs, for whom he served as chaplain for many years. One of his most recent ministries was writing his weekly column in the Thomasville Times Enterprise.  The words he penned will continue to provide spiritual guidance, wisdom, enjoyment, and fond memories for those who knew and loved him. His life can best be summed up as a beautiful melody; one that brings a smile, chuckle, and warmth to those who had the pleasure of knowing him. He is survived by his wife, Nancy, his four daughters, Kathy Allen (Bruce), Karen Kelso (Bill), Kim Pippin (Byron), and Karla King, his nine grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.  His siblings, Wilma Kinslow (Melvin), Dorothy Jordan (Bill) and William Gardner (Susan) also survive.  Finally, he is survived by many nieces and nephews.  He is preceded in death by his parents and one grandson. His family wishes to invite you to share in the celebration of his life at First Baptist Church, Thomasville, Georgia on December 22 at 11 a.m.  Visitation is Friday evening in the chapel of Allen & Allen Funeral Home, from 4-7 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, a donation may be made in his honor to the Samaritan’s Purse Mission or the Lottie Moon Foreign Mission Offering. Family and friends are invited to visit his online guest register at