James “Jim” Gardner grew up in Rocky Mount and attended Rocky Mount Public Schools before attending NC State. Active in business in Nash and Edgecombe Counties, he was Vice-President of Gardner Dairy Products, co-founder of Hardee’s Food Systems, and later established the chain of Gardner’s Barbecue restaurants. In 1966, he was elected to Congress, where he was an active member of the House Education and Labor Committees. Mr. Gardner was elected Chairman of the NC State Republican Party in 1965 and was elected Lt. Governor in 1988, the first Republican to serve in that office. Mr. Gardner was President of the Carolina Cougars, the first professional basketball team based in North Carolina. He also served as President and Commissioner of the American Basketball Association. Mr. Gardner has been named Tarheel of the Week and Outstanding Young Man of the South.
Inducted into Hall of Fame 2005