JOHN GARDINER RICHARDS was born in Liberty Hill, South Carolina. Educated at Bingham Military Institute in North Carolina, he was a member of the South Carolina Military Board for four years, and having served with the South Carolina Militia, he retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He was a magistrate from 1892 to 1900 and a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1898 to 1910. Richards was also a farmer and a railway authority. A South Carolina Railroad Commissioner from 1910 to 1918 and again from 1922 to 1926, he chaired the Executive National Association of Railways and served as President of the Southeastern Association of Railroad Commissioners. He was a member of the South Carolina Council of Defense during World War I and a South Carolina Tax Commissioner. After waging three unsuccessful gubernatorial campaigns, he was victorious in the election of 1926. During Richards’ administration, the first woman was elected to the state Senate and the legislature authorized a $65 million bond issue to finance highway construction. Richards also was governor when the Great Depression began. He ordered strict enforcement of Sabbatarian laws dating back to the 17th Century, making games and other forms of entertainment illegal on Sunday. The Supreme Court ruled Sabbatarian laws illegal and the state legislature passed a law liberalizing them, but Richards vetoed the bill. He also vetoed legislation making school attendance compulsory. He was responsible for passage of the Forestry Act and legislation enabling acceleration of rural electrification. After leaving office, he served as Chairman of the South Carolina Natural Resources Commission.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 45. New York: James T. White & Company.