Jim is survived by his wife of 50 years, Mary Beth Gardner of University Park; his three children: Lisa Gardner Powers and her husband, Adam, of University Park; Leigh Gardner McCartin and her husband, Michael, of University Park; and Mary Mansfield and her husband, Matt, of Rochester, N.Y.; four grandchildren: Mary Grace McCartin, Maxwell McCartin, Caroline Powers, and Chad Felton; and two great-grandchildren.
Jim was born in Corsicana, Texas, to James Forrest and Mary Sue Gardner on June 10, 1934. He earned his B.B.A. in finance from SMU in 1955. As a college freshman, Jim began his studies with aspirations of engineering, but after enrolling in an introductory finance course, he followed his bliss in business, which led to a fulfilling career in the world of banking and ultimately being widely recognized as a leading expert in complex credit deals. In 1955, Jim joined MBank (formerly Mercantile Bank), where he progressed through increasing levels of responsibility before being elected vice chairman of the board and director in 1979 and then president in 1981. He retired from Bank One as vice chairman of the board in 1990 and later served as president and chief executive officer of Pacific Southwest Bank.
After Pacific Southwest Bank, Jim became an investment banker. He served as senior managing director of Samco Capital Markets for 13 years. He then co-founded Commerce Street Holdings, where he served as chairman for six years until his retirement in 2012. He was a past president of the Dallas Bankers Association, and a longtime director of two NYSE listed companies, Century Link Inc. and Ennis Inc.
Jim’s community service spanned areas from international affairs to the arts. His leadership positions included chairman of the international committee of the North Texas Commission, board member of the Dallas Opera, and director of the United Way of Greater Dallas. He served as chairman of the board of visitors of the School for Officer Training of the Salvation Army in Atlanta. In recognition of this service, he received the Order of Distinguished Service from the Salvation Army. Jim was also a dedicated and longtime member of First United Methodist, where he served as trustee for many years. He served as a member of SMU’s Executive Board of Perkins School of Theology and convener of the Dean’s Roundtable at Perkins. He was awarded with SMU’s Distinguished Alumni award.
He was a world traveler with a weakness for the majestic beauty of the Scottish Highlands. Jim also appreciated fine dining and enjoyed sharing that experience with his family and close friends. In addition to gourmet food, he was a voracious consumer of knowledge; books were his constant companions, and one was often found cradled in his hands as he slumbered serenely on Sunday afternoons. Jim absolutely adored his grandchildren and loved spending time with them.
Visitation was held at Sparkman Hillcrest on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013. A memorial service was held at First United Methodist Church of Dallas on Wednesday, Nov. 20.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Salvation Army, DFW Metroplex, P.O. Box 36006, Dallas, TX 75235 or First United Methodist Church, 1928 Ross Avenue, Dallas, TX 75201, or make a contribution for scholarships in his name (James B. Gardner) to the SW Graduate School of Banking (SWGSB) at Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business. Information on how to make additional contributions will be posted on Commerce Street’s website (www.commercestreetcapital.com), or you may contact SWGSB directly at 214-768-2991.