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Gainesville medical leader Dr. Billy Hardman dies at 98
One of Hall County's first doctors and pioneer in local health care
Dr. Billy Hardman
Dr. Billy Hardman

Dr. Billy Starr Hardman, one of Gainesville’s first physicians, died early Tuesday at his home in Gainesville. He was 98.

Hardman opened his own medical practice in Gainesville in 1948 at the age of 28, becoming the city’s 13th doctor at the time, according to his obituary

To expand medical services in Hall County, he was one of a team of local physicians who lobbied in Washington, D.C., for funding for the Hall County Hospital, which opened in 1951. He was also influential in the founding of the Hall County School of Nursing, which graduated its first class in 1963 and is now the Brenau University School of Nursing.

Jim Hardman, one of Dr. Hardman’s sons, said his father always had a positive attitude and maintained a close circle of friends throughout his whole life, including a group that would meet with him to chat on Friday afternoons.

“He basically followed the three C’s — don’t criticize, condemn or complain. … Even until his final days, the guy never complained, ever, about anything,” Jim Hardman said.

Hardman was an early medical leader in Hall County and helped establish the area as a health care center for the region.

“He was just a great friend and physician and helped start this great health care that we have in Gainesville. He was one of the forerunners,” said Dr. Ed Lynch, a former colleague of Hardman’s.

Hardman was born July 13, 1920, at the former Downey Hospital in Gainesville, according to his obituary. He spent most of his childhood in Gainesville, then spent a year in Conyers, where he graduated from high school at age 16. After that, he attended North Georgia College in Dahlonega, now the University of North Georgia, then went to the University of Georgia and the Medical College of Georgia. He became a physician at the age of 23.

During World War II, Hardman joined the U.S. Army and worked in military hospitals all over the country.

He returned to Gainesville following a fellowship at the Medical College of Georgia, where he specialized in obstetrics and gynecology. He served as chief of medical staff at Northeast Georgia Medical Center and was president of the Hall County Medical Society. He was one of the founders of Lanier Park Hospital, which is now a long-term care center operated by Northeast Georgia Health System.

His was also one of the founding families of Lakeview Academy.

Hardman retired from active practice in July 1987. Hardman’s longtime staff estimate that he delivered more than 12,000 babies during his career, according to his obituary.

Lynch, a former colleague, said Hardman was admired by those who knew him.

“He was easy-going, he was a great patient advocate, always nice to the nurses, just a superb physician,” Lynch said. “He worked hard, but his family was important to him too.”

Jim Hardman said his father always found time for family despite his busy career.

“He was very supportive of whatever we wanted to do, and it was amazing that he could balance his career and spend a lot of time with us,” Jim Hardman said.

Jim Hardman said his father never got angry and had mastered dealing with stressful situations.

“He would never let anything get to him,” Jim Hardman said. “He dealt really well with pressure, because with babies arriving, some days he might have eight or 10 deliveries.”

Hardman was featured in The Times in 2010, around his 90th birthday, when he was still exercising regularly and staying optimistic.

“I’m one of those people who never really spent any time thinking about how long I’d live or when I’d die,” Hardman said in 2010. “I figured the good Lord would take care of that, and I could worry about something else.”

Fred Link, a former attorney who now works for the University of North Georgia, met Hardman through his son, Bill Hardman, and Link said he always sought to positively impact others.

“He had a good warm personality. He never said anything bad about anybody,” Link said.

Heyward Hosch, former chairman of Citizens Bank and a friend of Hardman’s, said Hardman was a role model for those around him.

“Billy Hardman was one of the finest men I’ve ever known. He was a model, both in how he treated his patients and in how he treated everyone else he met,” Hosch said. “He was everything a physician should hope to be.”

Dr. Jim Butts, who met Hardman in 1966, said Hardman was well-respected in his field and witnessed a lot of change in medicine during his career, including the introduction of penicillin.

“He saw a lot of things in a lifetime of almost 100 years,” he said.

Visitation will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. today at Memorial Park North Riverside Chapel. A celebration of life service will be held at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Aug. 3, at Memorial Park North Riverside Chapel.