Speaker O. Max Gardner III encourages Dems to ‘stand strong’
Speaking Oct. 22 at the Fay Gardner-Bess Hoey Breakfast in Shelby, O. Max Gardner III interwove warm stories of his grandmother and great-aunt--both N. C. First Ladies from Cleveland County--with encouragement to local Democrats to stand strong at a time pivotal for the nation’s future.
A nationally recognized Shelby consumer bankruptcy attorney, Gardner took note of today’s harsh and hostile political divide--manifested in Washingtonconflict, statehouse controversy, and campaign rhetoric. Not since the Civil War, he said, has the future direction of the country seemed so starkly on balance. Democrats today must “stay together and work together” to keep the country moving forward as forebears did in years past when great challenge arose. “It’s time to do the right thing,” he said. Or as “Miss Fay” would say, “Get out there and fight, and take names later."
Cleveland County Democratic Women (CCDW) sponsored the North Lake Country Club event to celebrate the organization’s origins and to raise funds for its projects.
Fay Webb Gardner was First Lady during the term of her husband, Gov. O. Max Gardner, beginning in 1928, and was a beloved and influential figure in state and national politics until her death at 82 in 1969. Bess Gardner Hoey was O. Max Gardner’s sister and the wife of Gov. Clyde R. Hoey, whose term began in 1937. She died 14 months after Gov. Hoey left office. They were part of the legendary “Cleveland Dynasty” (also called the “Shelby Dynasty”) that shaped North Carolina politics for a generation, leading the state from the depths of the Great Depression and putting it on a progressive path.
In particular, said CCDW President Betsy Wells, these two First Ladies modeled the way for women to engage actively in politics in order to improve community and country, once women finally won the right to vote in August 1920 after a 70-year effort. Speaker Gardner noted that both Gov. Gardner and Gov. Hoey had been staunch advocates of women’s suffrage for years before the 19th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution was ratified. Historians say Gardner’s political opponents manipulated that stance to defeat him (by 87 votes) in his first primary run for the governorship in 1920.
In addition to Mrs. Hoey and Mrs. Gardner, who was instrumental in forming the first Democratic Women’s group in Cleveland County, Mrs. Wells also paid tribute to the numerous other women who’ve led the organization over the years, recognizing past officers. North Carolina Democratic Women President Sarah W. Anderson of Clayton sent the state organization’s greetings. Among the dozens gathered for the breakfast were CCDW members, current and former local Democratic party leaders, elected officials and candidates.