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Harrison Garner

Harrison L. Garner (3/21/47)

Wisconsin Historical Society Image ID: WHi-46545

Harrison L. Garner Park

Garner Park on Mineral Point Road is named after Harrison Garner (1883 – 1979), who served on the Madison city council for 35 years, longer than any other alderman. He was awarded the Madison Medal of Merit upon his retirement - a tribute created just for him.

Born in a log cabin near Lancaster, he clerked in a Chicago clothing store for $30 a month until he “struck it rich” in a lead and zinc mine near Platteville. He came to Madison in 1903 to attend the 4-C Business College. He was rooming in Mrs. Pearce’s boarding house in 1904 when his roommate awakened him. “It was the state Capitol that was burning. For about 24 hours we carried law books out of the north wing because the elevators weren’t working. We carried them down two flights of stairs and put them in horse-drawn sleighs.”

Garner earned a degree in civil engineering from the UW in 1909 and was president of his class. He enlisted in the army in 1916 and served on the Mexican border against Pancho Villa, then was a senior instructor in the Army Gas School during World War I. During World War II he was a colonel in the selective service.

Garner was a leader in national savings and loan organizations. He was named secretary of Anchor Savings and Loan in 1919 and retired as vice president in 1949. He was a director of the Wisconsin State Finance Corporation, Bank of Madison, Hilldale State Bank, Madison General Hospital, Madison Insurance Board, and the Dane County Humane Society. He was superintendent of Veterans’ Housing Loans, an organizer of American Legion Post 57, and a member of Rotary. He served as parade marshal of Madison’s Memorial Day parades from 1919 to 1948 and was marshal of the Armed Forces Day parades from 1949 to 1967. During his three and a half decades on the City Council representing the 13th District he served two terms as president, in 1939 and 1950.

Garner once wrote: “I grew up in the last century in the days before the automobile. In those days, nobody in their teens ever had an occasion to go outside the County, and I never had until I finished high school. Then four of us went to St. Louis to see the World’s Fair. Now, I’ve seen other world’s fairs, in New York, Philadelphia and Chicago, but there never was a world’s fair like the one in St. Louis. It was in the spring of 1904 and we were there eight days and there wasn’t a single thing in that fairgrounds we didn’t see; it was one of the greatest experiences in my lifetime.”

Mark Gajewski