Monday, January 12, 2015

Kumen Snow Gardner (1900-1983)

Portrait from "The Mayors of Cedar City", 1986.

   Cedar City, Utah resident Kumen Snow Gardner was long prominent in the civic and political affairs of his community, being a farmer, city councilman, two-term state representative, and one term Mayor of Cedar City. In addition to his time in elected office, Gardner was active in the Church of Latter-Day Saints, serving as bishop of the Newcastle ward as well as having a ten-year tenure as President of the Cedar Stake. 
    Born in Grass Valley, Utah on April 21, 1900, Kumen Snow Gardner was one of twelve children born to Royal Joseph and Chloe Snow Gardner. His early life in Grass Valley was spent helping his father at a sawmill located near his family's home, as well as attending the "district school" in Pine Valley. Gardner and his family would remove to Iron County during his adolescence and he continued schooling at the Cedar City High School.
    Following the completion of his high school education, Gardner enrolled at the Branch  Agricultural College, where he would be a standout basketball player, helping the college team attain "first place in state competition in both 1918 and 1919." Sanders graduated from Branch in 1919 and continued study at both the Utah State Agricultural College and the National Automobile School of America, graduating from the latter school in 1922. 
   In the same year as his graduation from the National Automobile School of America, Kumen Gardner relocated to New Castle, Utah, where he took work with the New Castle Reclamation Company, a farming/land investment concern. Within a few years, Gardner had purchased various pieces of arable land and built up a "successful livestock business, with summers in Grass Valley and winters in New Castle." Gardner would be affiliated with livestock and agricultural concerns for the rest of his life, being a past president of Iron County's Cattlemen's Association for six years and is also recorded as being the organizer of the Southern Utah Livestock Show.

A Gardner election notice from the Iron County Record, October 26, 1944.

   In 1932 Kumen Gardner married in New Castle to Naida Gillies (1915-2012), to whom he was wed for over fifty years. The couple would have a total of five children: Sheila, Dayne, Paul, Neil, and Eric. A longstanding member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Gardner was selected as Bishop of the New Castle ward in 1938 and served in that position until 1943. In that year he and his family removed to Cedar City, Utah, where he would continue in church work, entering into the Presidency of the Cedar Stake of the Mormon Church, where he would serve until 1955.
   Kumen S. Gardner first entered local politics while he was residing in New Castle. From 1930 to 1939 he was the president of the New Castle Town Board and following his removal to Iron County was a candidate for County Commissioner in 1944 (his election notice being shown above). Three years later Gardner won election to the Cedar City Council for a two-year term, garnering 1054 votes
   In 1958 he was elected as one of Iron County's representatives to the Utah State Legislature, and despite having had no previous legislative experience, made headlines a first term legislator in June 1959 when he was named as "Utah's All American Father of the Year". Gardner won re-election to the statehouse in November of 1960 and after leaving office in 1961 continued his political ascent, winning election as the Mayor of Cedar City. He was sworn in as Mayor on January 2, 1962, and within two months of entering office had to contend with the largest fire to occur in the city's history, the burning of the Leigh Block. 
   Kumen Gardner left the office of mayor in January 1966, being succeeded by L.A. Whetten. Gardner continued to be a major force in Iron County civic affairs for many years afterward, being the President of the Escalante Valley Electric Company and Chairman of the State Board of Land Management, and in 1976 he was named as Utah's "outstanding cattleman" by the Utah Association of Future Farmers of America. 
  On November 15, 1983, Kumen Gardner was injured in a truck accident in Southern Utah. He succumbed to his injuries two weeks later at a Las Vegas hospital on November 28, 1983, at age 83. Gardner's wife and children survived him, with Naida Gillies Gardner being interred alongside her husband at the Cedar City Cemetery upon her death at age 97 in 2012.

From the Salt Lake Tribune, December 21, 1958.

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