Among the many rags-to-riches stories we are familiar with, Chris Gardner’s life story is one of the most well-known. In his youth, this man was the epitome of a humble beginning, lacking everything he needed to survive. He was raised in several foster homes after being separated from his mother by a violent and abusive stepfather. Soon after, he decided to join the Navy and spent four years in the US Corps. Following his retirement, the war veteran began working as a laboratory research assistant, with surgeon Robert Ellis showing faith in his promising medical career. The job, however, was low-paying, and with a family to support, the young man had to give up his ambitions to become a doctor. For a long time, he sold medical equipment, but he was never completely satisfied with his work. Soon, his desire to do something more rewarding grew stronger, and he decided to pursue a career as a stockbroker. He was quickly accepted as a trainee at the ‘Dean Witter Reynolds’ after a few attempts at various training programs offered by various firms. His hard work paid off, and he was soon able to open his own firm, ‘Gardner Rich & Co.,’ which started small but eventually propelled Chris to fame. Continue reading to learn more about his life and work.
Childhood and Adolescence
On February 9, 1954, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Chris was born to Bettye Jean Gardner and Thomas Turner. From his mother’s previous marriage, he has a stepsister, Ophelia, and two half-siblings, Kimberly and Sharon, from Bettye’s third husband, Freddie Triplett.
When Bettye was falsely accused of crimes by the violent Triplett, the young children had a difficult childhood, which included times when they were separated from their mother. Chris’ mother, on the other hand, was the driving force behind his success, inspiring him to be self-sufficient and confident in the face of adversity.
Gardner was influenced by political figures such as Eldridge Cleaver, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X in the late 1960s.
Career of Chris
Gardner followed his Uncle Henry’s advice and enlisted in the United States Navy, serving for four years at ‘Camp Lejeune’ in North Carolina.
He met Robert Ellis, a renowned heart surgeon, who suggested Chris join the research team at the ‘University of California Medical Center and Veterans Administration Hospital’ in San Francisco. The young man left the Navy in
1974 and went to work as a clinical research assistant in a hospital.
Gardner had proven himself capable of taking on a larger role in just two years, and in 1976, he became the in-charge of a laboratory while also writing medical articles with Ellis. However, this job did not pay well enough, and with a family to support, he was forced to work as a medical equipment salesman.
He once saw a well-dressed man driving a Ferrari and was curious as to what he did for a living. Gardner was inspired to become a stockbroker after learning that the man, Bob Bridges, was a stockbroker. Bridges not only trained him, but also provided him with a plethora of opportunities.
‘Dean Witter Reynolds,’ ‘Paine Webber,’ ‘Smith Barney,’ ‘Merrill Lynch,’ and ‘E.F. Hutton’ were among the stockbroker training firms where he tried his luck. He joined ‘Hutton’ and quit his job as a salesman to pursue his dream of becoming a stockbroker. Gardner’s recruiter had resigned by the time he joined, so he was back to square one.
Soon after, he was hired as a trainee by the firm ‘Dean Witter Reynolds,’ with no pay until he had a confirmed job. The meager amount of money he earned from the sale of medical equipment was his only source of income.
The stockbroker trainee put in a lot of effort into his education, making about 200 calls per day and returning to the office every day. After passing the ‘Series 7’ test, he was hired as a full-time employee in 1982. Following that, Chris was hired as a stockbroker by San Francisco-based ‘Bear Stearns & Company.’
In 1987, the seasoned stockbroker decided to strike out on his own, establishing Gardner Rich & Co in Chicago, Illinois. He worked out of his tiny apartment at the ‘Presidential Towers’ as a small start-up company with a meager $10,000 investment.
Chris held the majority of the stakes in the company, which was a huge success. He sold his ‘Gardner Rich’ stakes for several million dollars in 2006, and went on to found ‘Christopher Gardner International Holdings,’ a large corporation with offices in San Francisco, New York, and Chicago.
He is currently working on establishing a business with South African investors with the goal of creating significant job opportunities.
Major Projects of Chris
This well-known stockbroker-entrepreneur is known for his firm, ‘Gardner Rich & Co,’ which began small but grew into a multimillion-dollar corporation. The name “Rich” was chosen because the company’s founder admired the well-known businessman Marc Rich.
Achievements & Awards
Since 2002, Gardner has received numerous awards, including the ‘Father of the Year Award,’ the ’25th Annual Humanitarian Award,’ and the ‘Friends of Africa Award.
Personal History and Legacy
Chris Gardner married Sherry Dyson, a mathematician, on June 18, 1977. The marriage, however, was rocky, particularly after the young man decided he couldn’t pursue a medical career.
He had an affair with a young girl named Jackie while still married, and she became pregnant within a few months. After divorcing his wife, he moved in with Jackie and gave birth to Christopher Jarrett Medina Gardner Jr. in 1981. He also has a daughter, Jacintha, who was born four years after he was married.
Chris’ relationship with Jackie soon fell apart as well, and she accused him of torturing her physically. Despite the fact that the entrepreneur denies the allegations, he was sentenced to prison and had to be separated from his son for a few months.
Jackie returned Christopher Jr. four months later, and the aspiring stockbroker took full responsibility for the child despite all obstacles, including poverty, a lack of food, and homelessness.
After experiencing poverty and abuse as a child, this well-known businessman has made it his mission to provide homes and a decent standard of living for the poor. He gives money to organizations that help the homeless, such as the ‘Glide Memorial United Methodist Church.’
He is a member of the Board of Directors of the NGOs ‘National Fatherhood Initiative’ and ‘National Education Foundation’, in addition to being a dedicated father.
The 2006 Will Smith-starrer ‘The Pursuit of Happyness,’ based on his son’s book of the same name, is the most famous film depiction of Gardner’s life and struggles. The film was well-received and was nominated for several ‘Academy Award’ nominations.
He starred alongside TV anchor Bob Barker and journalist Hunter S. Thompson in the documentary ‘Come on Down: Searching for the American Dream.’ He also appeared in ‘The Promotion,’ a 2008 comedy starring Seann William Scott and John C. Reilly, as a guest star.
Estimated Net Worth
This well-known stockbroker has a net worth of $60 million, with the majority of his fortune coming from the sale of stakes in the ‘Gardner Rich & Co.’
This American businessman enjoys playing the trumpet, and Miles Davis is one of his favorite musicians.