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Tireless opponent of abortions, Mr. Johnny Gardner, passes away after illness

Cayce, SC 07/22/2021 (Paul Kirby) – Mr. Johnny Gardner, a tireless opponent of abortions, passed away on the morning of July 21, 2021, after battling cancer. According to his son, Gardner’s Funeral Service will be held at Gantt Street Baptist Church in Cayce at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 24, 2021. The service will be proceeded by a visitation.

Thousands of people have seen or know of Johnny Gardner although only a fraction of those knew his name. For decades, he was known simply as the man who protested abortions at the intersection of Airport Boulevard and Charleston Highway. This is where the cities of Cayce and West Columbia meet near the old K-Mart building and the original Piggy Park Bar-B-Que. There, he’d walk back and forth on the raised highway island that separates the lanes of traffic. He’d often push a baby carriage with a doll in it carrying an octagon sign across his shoulder that was emblazoned with the slogan “Stop Abortion Now”. There were other times he carried a doll around his shoulder in a sling often worn by new mothers or could be seen found out literature to anyone who stopped at the light and put their window down to accept his pamphlet.

To say stopping abortions was Johnny Garner’s passion would be an understatement. He literally walked that highway island for decades in any kind of weather. He had tread it so often he’d worn a path in the hard ground and became famous for his presence there even if few knew him by name. His stance on his deep religious beliefs that abortions were murder, and a fetus was a child in the eyes of God was legendary.

Mr. Johnny was a man whose appearance was unremarkable. He often wore old slacks, a work shirt with the pamphlets stuffed in the breast pocket, and a thin windbreaker or a heavy coat depending on the weather. On the coldest days he’d don a stocking cap and gloves as he walked back and forth waving at everyone who passed. He always had his glasses perched on his nose and walked at a measured pace that was neither frantic nor slow. As much as he wasn’t seeking attention for himself, he wanted the issue of abortions to grab the attention of everyone as he silently protested day after day. He never though of himself as famous, simply the hands and feet of God walking that spot here on earth as a good and faithful servant doing what he felt the Holy Spirit had instructed him to do.

If you were to write a description of dedication regarding a cause, Mr. Johnny would have been a perfect example. He truly believed that abortions were wrong and should be illegal, but instead of just talking or debating the topic, he put his feet to work making his point. I can not imagine how many pairs of shoes Mr. Johnny wore out over his years of demonstration, but that number must be in the hundreds! He never seemed to tire even after he became older and ill.

When Mr. Johnny wasn’t walking the island, I’ve been told he was constantly involved in the fight against abortions in some way every day. He’d lobby legislatures as if he were a Harvard trained attorney even though he was just a simple man. If everyone in the world had just one issue they were as dedicated to as Johnny Gardner was to stopping abortions, I truly believe there would be no wars. Instead, the entire population of the globe would be quietly working to right the wrongs they saw in our society. That’s just how dedicated Mr. Johnny was to his cause and opposition to abortions.

After so many years of walking, Mr. Johnny lived long enough to see the Heartbeat Bill become a law in 2021. This bill strictly limited abortions after a fetus had a detectable heartbeat in South Carolina. It may not have been a whole loaf of bread win for Johnny Gardner, he’d like to have seen this be the law of the entire nation, but it was certainly a victory for the man whose silent protest and shirt pocket pamphlets saved countless babies lives over the years in our state.

Perhaps at some point in the future, someone will put forth the effort to have a plaque erected at Mr. Johnny’s spot in the highway. On that marker, it would inform all who saw it that the worn ruts in the ground were made by a remarkable man who didn’t look remarkable at all. Instead, he simply walked, waved, and made a difference.

Rest well Mr. Johnny, others will take it from here.


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