Marquis Emerging Leaders

Jimmie C. Gardner

Title: Inspirational Speaker and Emotional Intelligence Trainer

Company: J.C. Gardner Speaks, LLC

Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies, Communication and Media Studies, Chapman University (2022); Coursework in Business Management & Restaurant Management, West Virginia University Institute of Technology (1996-2009); Coursework in Business Administration, Management and Operations, West Virginia University Institute of Technology (1997-2007); AS in General Studies, Bridgemont Community and Technical College

Career History: Inspirational Speaker/Emotional Intelligence Trainer/Owner, J.C. Gardner Speaks, LLC (2017-Present); HR Executive, Senior Mentor, Olive Tree Initiative Human Resources (2014-2016); Professional Baseball Player, Chicago Cubs (1984-1988)

Jimmie C. Gardner, Inspirational Speaker and Emotional Intelligence Trainer at J.C. Gardner Speaks, LLC, has been recognized as a Marquis Emerging Leader for their contributions and achievements in the field of motivational speaking.

Since 2017, Mr. Gardner has wielded a microphone to share his story and provide a voice for the voiceless as the owner, motivational speaker, and emotional intelligence trainer at J.C. Gardner Speaks, LLC. Having been given an opportunity to prove his innocence and escape a wrongful conviction after 27 years of incarceration, he travels and talks to prisoners, judges, prosecutors, federal defenders, and wider audiences, striving to advocate for judicial reform and offer his unique perspective to help those who either don’t belong in prison, may have been given too long of a sentence or experience sentencing disparity based on their race. Making it his mission to bring a message of love, justice, and support, he tries to bridge the gap between judicial process individuals, such as lawyers and judges, and make them realize that the people on the other side are human beings; he also stresses that it’s not how one started, but how they ended in their journey, that’s important.

Mr. Gardner’s own journey began in Tampa, Florida, where he was raised by a great aunt and discovered his love and passion for baseball. He played in little league and then on school teams throughout his academic career, excelling both on the field and in the classroom. After graduating from Tampa Bay Technical High School, he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 1984. He pitched in the minor leagues for four seasons—wearing uniforms for the Pikeville Cubs, Wytheville Cubs, Geneva Cubs, and the Charleston Wheelers, among others—all while studying business management at Tampa College. Up until 1987, the year his life forever changed. While playing in West Virginia with the Wheelers, two elderly white women were victims of sexual assault and robbery by a Black male, and as a result, more than 150 men were brought to the police for questioning, and he was one of them. As there was no forensic evidence, and he did not match the description of the criminal, he was cleared and free to leave. But two years later, while he was back in Tampa, detectives from Charleston showed up and informed him that his fingerprints did in fact match and he was arrested and charged with sexual assault, robbery, and burglary. In January 1990, following what he described as “a travesty of a trial with an inexperienced public defender, blatant prosecutorial misconduct, false testimony from the forensic expert, and numerous trial errors,” he was convicted and sentenced to 110 years.

While in prison, Mr. Gardner maintained his focus on education, completing coursework and earning associate degrees and certificates, as well as teaching himself the law in an effort to prove his innocence as well as help fellow inmates with their own situations. In 2016, after 27 years in prison, a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia ruled that his case was a “miscarriage of justice” and that he had been held in “legal purgatory” for decades. He was ultimately released in April of that year; ever since, he has wasted no time serving as an advocate for judicial reform and keeping himself abreast of new laws. In addition to his motivational speaking business, he has served on the board of the Georgia Innocence Project, which often collaborates with similar organizations in Florida and New York and successfully brought home eight people in the past two years, and has done extensive work with Florida Rights Restorations, through which he gives a voice to felons in the state. He has also been affiliated with the Georgetown Law Clinic. Sharing his story and experiences with everybody everywhere, Mr. Gardner also lends his voice to the podcasts “Choppin’ It Up With Jimmie C.: Life After Wrongful Conviction” and “The Walls and Beyond,” the latter of which explores the day-to-day life in the West Virginia prison he was in.

Equipped with an Associate of Science in general studies and a bachelor’s degree in communication studies, among other educational credits, Mr. Gardner has thought about pursuing a Master of Business Administration in leadership and is currently weighing an offer for a law degree at Yale University. Looking toward the future, he also sees his business flourishing and hopes to expand his reach with a television show, in which he can share his story and provide a platform for others to speak and share their own similar experiences. In addition, he has written a book that will be released called “Grace Under Pressure.”

Mr. Gardner attributes his newfound success to his faith, which kept him determined and strong throughout his sentence, good roots, staying grounded, and being thankful. He is happily married and enjoys traveling, playing golf, and fishing in his, now everlasting, free time.

Contact Jimmie C. Gardner

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