Dr. Claude Eugene “Gene” Hardin died Friday, February 23, 2018. He was a loving husband, a dedicated and caring father and grandfather, a coach, a teacher, a leader, a loyal friend, and a follower of Christ. He was married to Dr. Sue Hunt Hardin for 65 years. Gene, was the father of C. E. “Skip” Hardin, Jr. and the late Deborah “Debi” Hardin Davis (Larry), and the grandfather of Dr. Kara S. Davis Meister (Mathew), Jonathan A. Hardin, Christopher B. Hardin, and Geoffrey A. Hardin. His life was built on two pillars, his family and teaching, with his Christian convictions as its foundation.
Gene, the son of Claude Beason Hardin and Ola Phillips Hardin, was born on August 13, 1926, in Calion, AR. At three years old he and his parents moved to Sterlington, Louisiana where he attended A. L. Smith Elementary School. He graduated from Ouachita Parish High School in Monroe, LA. Gene joined the U. S. Navy and served aboard the U.S.S. Sculptor during WWII, in the North and South Pacific. His ship, the Sculptor was moored on Tinian Island on August 6, 1945. That morning the Enola Gay, piloted by Colonel Paul Tibbets, took off from Tinian Island on a historic mission that would end the war.
After the war, he returned to Louisiana and graduated from Louisiana Tech University. He later earned a master’s degree from L.S.U. and a doctorate degree from the University of Denver. He began his teaching career back in Sterlington at A. L. Smith Jr. High and then taught biology and coached basketball at West Monroe High School. He left the class room to become principal of Millsaps Elementary School and then principal of West Monroe Jr. High School, but he never lost his love of the classroom and his students. In 1969, Dr. Hardin joined the faculty at the University of South Carolina to teach graduate courses in education law and public-school administration in the College of Education and was the Director of the Educational Placement Office. He left USC in 1979 to join Lexington School District Two and became Superintendent in 1981. He retired in 1987 but returned again to the classroom, teaching as an adjunct professor at USC for the next four years. He taught math and science to youngsters, taught graduate courses to experienced professionals, coached basketball and baseball and loved every minute of the journey. And his students loved him in return.
Dr. Hardin was a member and officer in numerous professional education organizations at the local, district, state, and national levels. He was also active in numerous civic organizations throughout his life, including The Boy Scouts of America as a youth and as an adult, the Boys & Girls Club of America.
He began his Christian journey when he was nearly twelve years old and joined the Sterlington Baptist Church. Gene and Sue were members of Southern Baptist churches in LA, CO, and SC. His final church home was First Baptist Church of Columbia where he served as a deacon, Sunday School teacher, and on various church committees. Later when his illness kept him from Sunday attendance, he never missed a broadcast of the First Baptist Sunday service.
Throughout his life he was an avid traveler and camper, camping across the country from Carolina to California, but he especially loved the SC State Parks. He instilled in his children and grandchildren a love of adventure and exploration. And the grandchildren now are spread out from St. Thomas, USVI, to Colorado and California. Later in life, he became an enthusiastic genealogist. Gene did extensive research traveling to genealogy resource centers in libraries, court houses, and cemeteries in VA, NC, SC, TN, KY, MO, AR, LA and OK. He wrote the biographies of the Hardin lineal descents, starting with Benjamin B.Hardin (1678) of London, England, who brought the Hardin family to America. Gene’s last writing project was his nearly 400 page autobiography which chronicles his life’s journey, which he wrote for his family and friends. He concluded that book by writing, “Until my final heartbeat, I’ll continue in faith that Jesus Christ died for my sins, and I have accepted Him as my Savior. I’ll quote Paul when he said, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14. May we all be united in heaven, but until then, God bless you.”
Gene’s funeral will be held in Boyce Chapel, First Baptist Church of Columbia, on Tuesday, February 27, at 11:00am, Dr. Wendell Estep, Richard Humphries, and Steve Phillips will conduct the funeral service. Burial will be in the Fort Jackson National Military Cemetery. Visitation will be Monday, February 26, at Moseley Funeral Home on Meeting Street in West Columbia, at 6:00pm to 8:00pm.
By request of Dr. Hardin, memorials may be made to the TV Ministry, First Baptist Church, 1306 Hampton St., Columbia, SC 29201.