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Hardy writer died during U.S. mission

POSTED: November 10, 2013 1:00 a.m.

As recalled a few weeks ago, numerous Hardys seemed to be born with a writer’s pen in their hands or a bent toward some form of journalism.

They stemmed from Gen. J.P. Hardy, a Confederate Army veteran who fought at the age of 14, and after the Civil War fathered three sons who toiled among printers’ presses. They were Albert Hardy Sr., publisher of the Gainesville News, J.B. Hardy of the Thomasville Times and Benjamin Hill Hardy of the Barnesville News-Gazette. Albert Hardy also was the father of three sons who became printers, Charles and Milton of Gainesville, and Albert Jr. of Commerce.

Charles’s son, Buzzie, worked for his Uncle Albert, succeeding him as publisher of the Commerce News and just recently retired from the printing business.

But there was another Hardy who distinguished himself in journalism and related fields. Ben Hardy, who lives in Bloomfield, Conn., tells the story of his father, Benjamin Hill Hardy Jr. of Barnesville. Ben Hardy Jr. worked for his father as reporter and editor before becoming a reporter for the Atlanta Journal, then going into th•e newspaper business for himself in Biloxi, Miss. That didn’t work out so he joined the Associated Press in Virginia. AP sent him to New York City when World War II broke out.

In 1943, Ben Hardy Jr. moved the family to Washington, D.C., before taking a job as public affairs officer in the American Embassy at Rio de Janeiro. After the war, he became the speech writer for Gen. George Marshall and other senior officials with President Harry Truman’s administration.

When Truman was returned to office in 1948, Hardy helped with his inaugural address. That included the major ideas of the first Truman administration: support for the United Nations, continued economic assistance to war-torn countries and military cooperation to help Western Europe resist pressure from the Soviet Union.

One of Hardy’s own ideas got an enthusiastic reaction from his boss: the offer of America’s scientific and technical knowledge to the world’s poorer nations. However, other senior officials struck his idea. Clark Clifford, one of several presidents’ trusted advisers, got wind of it, took it to Truman, who loved it, and the world’s newspapers headlined it the day after the inaugural address.

Hardy Jr. became public affairs director and chairman of the Technical Cooperation Administration’s policy planning council, which grew from his own idea.

Hardy’s job took him and other senior officials of the new agency on tours of developing countries to assess needs and develop programs. On Dec. 21, 1951, the team left for Baghdad on a commercial flight to Tehran, Iran. Flying in a snowstorm with zero visibility, the plane crashed into the mountains, killing all aboard. Ben Hardy Jr. was 43 years old. The State Department honored him posthumously, but his son, Ben Hardy, for decades has hoped to see his father receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Said his son, “Here is an unsung hero with a lot of printer’s ink in his veins. America owes him a debt of gratitude.”

• • •

Many Georgians praised Gov. Nathan Deal’s decision to move Tom Watson’s statue from the capitol grounds to renovate the building’s entrance. That’s because Watson was a fiery controversial politician who sometimes came down on Jews and blacks.

Some, however, including the Sons of Confederate Veterans, want the 12-foot bronze statue to stay put. One Gainesville man is among those who prefer Watson’s statue remains in its honored place. A.D. Watson, a great-great-nephew of the famous U.S. senator, wrote Gov. Deal, whom he knows, stating his opposition.

Watson believes his great-great-uncle’s anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic and anti-black views are overblown, though he did support the Ku Klux Klan and lynchings. He points out that early in his political career Tom Watson campaigned on a Populist progressive platform that encouraged whites working with blacks to improve conditions of the poor. He served only two years as a U.S. representative primarily because he went against the grain of the wealthy and more established politicians, but is credited with the beginning of Rural Free Delivery mail.

A.D. Watson also says Tom Watson’s popularity with Georgians is shown with his 94 percent of the vote in an election. He won a U.S. Senate seat in 1920 and died in office in 1922.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com/johnny.


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