7 Things You Didn't Know About Chris Gardener

Updated: Nov 21, 2020


He is known for his best-selling book ‘Pursuit of Happyness’ and a successful Hollywood film of the same name, starring Will Smith and his son Jaden Smith. It was inspired by the true Story of how he faced very many obstacles to be at his happy place. Christopher Paul Gardener is an African-American entrepreneur, philanthropist, stockbroker, an author, and an international motivational speaker.


Chris was born on February 9, 1954, in Milwaukee Wisconsin to his father Thomas Turner, and his mother Bettye Jean Gardener. He was the second and the only boy in their family. He had an older sister Ophelia who was from his mother’s first marriage before she met Thomas and two stepsisters Kimberly and Sharon from Bettye’s third husband, Freddie Triplett. In Chris’s lifetime, he was able to see his dad only twice. His stepfather was physically abusive to his mother and sisters. He would beat Gardener and tell him that he was not his father and even wield a gun at him. That led Chris to smoke marijuana, stealing and fighting.



Bettye was falsely accused of attempted murder of Freddie Triplett and that led to her imprisonment. Chris and his two younger step-sisters were taken to the foster home. Bettye was a source of inspiration and strength to her son despite her periods of absence and the unhappy marriage. She would encourage him to always believe in himself and he learned to be self-reliant. Illiteracy, alcoholism, domestic abuse, and powerlessness were things he wanted to keep off in the future.


After High school, Chris joined the U.S Navy after being encouraged by Henry who had the most intense influence on him. He worked at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina for four years where he was the hospital corpsman. Later he met Dr. Robert Ellis a renowned heart surgeon who gave him a job as a research assistant at the University of California Medical Center and Veterans Administration Hospital for two years. He realized that he was still struggling to take care of his family and he left the medical career and went ahead to sell the medical equipment instead. While still in the medical equipment business, he came across a rich man Bob Bridges who was also a Stockbroker. Chris was influenced to do the same thing and that was his turning point. He was picked up by a stockbroker training firm called ‘Dean Witter Reynold’s to be a trainee. Since he was a trainee, he was doing working with no salary and he survived with the little amount of money he earned from selling the medical equipment. He was dedicated to his work, which led to him being accepted as a full-time employee.



Chris Gardener was married to Sherry Dyson an educational expert in Mathematics. They divorced after three years of marriage, due to their differences. While he was still living with Sherry, he started an affair with Jackie Medina who was a dental student. A few months into the affair, she became pregnant with his child. After three years he left Sherry to be with Jackie. Life was very difficult because it reached a time where his finances could not sustain Jackie and their son. Jackie left him and after four months she brought back their son, Christopher Jarrett Gardener to him. Contrary to his childhood experience he had vowed to himself he would be the best father to his son. They were sleeping in public transports, parks, and offices after working hours. He was determined to get out of that situation. Towards the end of his struggling, he got back with Jackie and they were blessed with another child named Jacinta Darlene Gardener.



Gardener worked with Bear Stearns and Company and in 1987, he started his own brokerage firm called ‘Gardener Rich and Co’, in Chicago, Illinois. He got that name from the famous businessman known as Marc’ Rich. The business was successfully growing with the majority of stakes being held by Chris. In 2006 he sold his ‘Gardener Rich’ firm and went to open the large firm, ‘Christopher Gardener International Holdings’. He opened offices in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. Currently, he is working on starting a business with the South African investors with the aim of creating job opportunities.


He is also a lecturer who travels around the world motivating people to pursue their dreams. He works with organizations such as ones against women violence, homelessness, and job creation projects. Having experienced homelessness and poverty himself, he helped to fund a project of an organization called ‘Glide Memorial United Methodist Church’ in San Francisco that creates job opportunities and Housing. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the NGOs ‘National Fatherhood Initiative’, and ‘National Educational Foundation and sponsors two Annual Education Awards. Gardener has been honored with several awards such as the ‘Father of the Year Award’, ’25th Annual Humanitarian Award’ as well as the 2006 ‘Friends of Africa Award’. He loves playing trumpet and his favorite artist is Miles Davis.


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