Jasper County athletics director James Gardner died Thursday evening, the Jasper County School District has confirmed.
"The Jasper County School District is deeply saddened by the sudden loss of its athletic director, Mr. James Gardner," the district's release said. "Mr. Gardner passed away earlier this evening. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time."
Gardner, 60, died at Coastal Medical center in Hardeeville. The district said more information would be released as it became available.
Gardner, a former member of the Jasper County School District board of trustees, had been the athletics director for the county since June of 2010. He was the county's recreation director from 1992 to 2005 and served as USC Beaufort's director of recreation from 2005 until 2010, when he left to take the Jasper County job.
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James' wife Cathy Gardner is on the Jasper County School District board of trustees.
Ridgeland-Hardeeville High School football coach Blake Raley and the Jaguars' football team began to hear conflicting stories Thursday just before taking the field for a game at Battery Creek High School.
Raley did not know Gardner had died until after the Jaguars' victory.
"We'll say this was for him," Raley said.
Raley said he was friends with Gardner through Gardner's previous roles before the relationship became professional.
Jaguars junior receiver Gavin Bush said Gardner was always around checking up on the school's sports teams.
"He told us we had the talent, but if our grades aren't good, we can't go to college," Bush said. "He was always trying to stay on top of our grades."
USC Beaufort athletics director Quin Monahan said Gardner had continued a great working relationship with the university in his role with Jasper County. USCB uses Hardeeville Middle School's track facilities.
"He was always very friendly to the university and open to great partnership," Monahan said. "We met on a number of occasions and he was always a super nice fellow."
Monahan said he and Gardner had lunch in Hardeeville last week, and while they were out, numerous people stopped to say hello to Gardner.
"I think he knew just about every person in Jasper County."
Arrangements are being handled by Young Funeral Home in Yemassee.