Bill Gardner (1884 - 1965) was one of Eliot Ness' famous "Untouchables", most noted as a large, half Indian football star.
William Jennings Gardner was born in 1884 at North Dakota. He was the son of a white man and a Chippewa Indian mother. At an early age Bill and his brother were taken from the reservation and sent to Carlisle to attend school. Bill and his brother George lived in Carlisle Pennsylvanie where they attended Carlisle Indian Industrial School
Football career and athletics
Gardner, who stood just under six feet and 172 pounds (at the time), played end, tackle, and fullback from 1904 - 07, helping the little school defeat the powers of the time, which were Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Pennsylvania -known as the "Big Four". The handsome young man also set a school record in track for the half mile, and also played basketball and baseball. Gardner enrolled in Dickinson School of Law
his senior year in '07. "Pop" Warner described his 1907 team as "nearly perfect", but was upset that Walter Camp had left Gardner off his All-American team. Later in the 1930s, Knute Rockne named Gardner to his All-Time All-American team for Collier's magazine.
Gardner then served as Manual's coach from 1908 through 1911. Gardner was normally described in newspapers of the day as reserved, but sometimes he had a "wolf - like nervousness". One newspaper referred to him as "the 'Indian' athlete". Gardner had a feared trickery as a football coach. The Director of Harvard's Hemingway Gymnasium found him to be one of the strongest Americans in 1911, conferred after a series of measurements and physical tests. Gardner even outscored renowned boxers John L. Sullivan, Jack Johnson (boxer), and James J. Jefferies. Gardner then became director of athletics at Otterbein University. He then played on an all-star team in Atlanta and while in Indiana, Gardner recruited another star - Jim Thorpe.
Family life and war
He finished law school in 1909 and was admitted to the Louisville bar in 1910. Gardner enlisted in the U.S. Army as a private during World War I and became the only "Indian" to receive a captain's commission at Fort Sheridan. As usual, Gardner captained the Camp Custer football team. He fought in the trenches in France and his pension stated that he had been gassed, but he no doubt a great athlete. Gardner married Alene French in 1919 and he fathered three children, one son and two daughters. The Gardner family traveled anywhere from Maryland to Texas, Bill usually being involved in athletics and practising law.
Eliot Ness was putting together a team of crack agents to combat the ruthless mob boss Al Capone. Ness wanted unmarried men who were accurate shots and could handle themselves in a fight, Gardner being a perfect candidate. Bill obtained a divorce and became a Prohibition Agent. Gardner had been an undercover expert in a L. A. Division and participated in the raids on Capone's breweries, as well as battling gangsters.
Ness often noted that Gardner had high cheek bones and an olive complexion. He also was amazed at Gardner's large size, making a note that Gardner held a shotgun nonchalantly. The elite team of enforcers were nicknamed the "Untouchables". Gardner was also the oldest of the "Untouchables", being nearly fifty.
After Gardner left the "Untouchables", drinking, gambling and women led his downfall. He moved around until he died in his eighties from an illness at the Prescott Veterans Hospital. He was buried in a National Cemetery. He was the real- life inspration behind Abel Fernandez' character of William "Bill" Youngfellow, Native American agent under Robert Stack's Eliot Ness in the original 1959-63 "Untouchables" T.V. series.