OBITUARY FOR RICHARD BLANDWORTH HARDIE, JR.
Richard Bladworth Hardie, Jr., Pastor Emeritus, Westover Hills Presbyterian Church and prominent civil rights leader in the 1960s, died Tuesday, November 29 at Presbyterian Village in Little Rock, AR at the age of 89. “Preacher Dick,” as he was called with affection by three generations of parishioners, was born in Dallas, Texas in 1922 to Mr. and Mrs. Richard Bladworth Hardie Sr. After graduating from Austin College, Sherman, Texas, he served as an officer in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He attended Union Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, where he obtained his theology degree and met his first wife, Mary Katherine “Kackie” Johnson.
Dr. and Mrs. Hardie moved to Little Rock in 1949 when Dr. Hardie became the first Minister of Westover Hills Presbyterian Church. He served as Pastor there for 36 years, during which time the Church became Little Rock’s second largest Presbyterian congregation. He received an honorary doctor of divinity degree from Arkansas College (now Lyon College) at Batesville in 1962. One of Dr. Hardie’s proudest moments came in 1957 when his congregation’s deacons bought the back page of the Arkansas Gazette in order to call the city to orderly compliance with the order of the federal government to integrate Little Rock Schools and to oppose the closing of the schools by then-Governor Faubus. Life magazine ran a picture of his entreaty to his congregation to support desegregation of the schools. In 1964, Dr. Hardie marched for civil rights with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Montgomery, Alabama. That same year, he and his wife hosted a breakfast meeting of black and white leaders in their home, which led to the formation of the Little Rock Council on Human Relations. Also in 1964, the British Broadcasting Corporation produced a television program on Dr. Hardie and his family as part of a series that profiled the lives of individual Americans, in which his stance on civil rights figured prominently.
In 1978, Dr. and Mrs. Hardie received the Brotherhood Award of the Arkansas chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. The award recognized the Hardies’ ”total community contributions,” which included a long association with the civil rights movement. In 1981, Dr. Hardie was one of the plaintiffs in the case against a law passed in Arkansas that mandated the teaching of creationism in public schools whenever the theory of evolution was discussed. The law was struck down in a 1982 ruling as a violation of the constitutional doctrine of separation of church and state. Throughout his long life of service, Dr. Hardie served as moderator of the Synod of Arkansas, a trustee of Montreat Association and Montreat College, and a member of the denomination’s General Assembly Committee on Evangelism. Dr. Hardie was a past chairman of the Arkansas Tuberculosis Association and was a member of the board of numerous community agencies, including the Arthritis Foundation, Arkansas Mental Health Association, American Red Cross, Urban League of Arkansas, Salvation Army, Pulaski County Council on Aging, National Conference of Christians and Jews (now Just Communities of Arkansas), Arkansas Council of Churches (now Arkansas Conferences of Churches and Synagogues), Stewpot, Regional Aids Interfaith Network and the Arkansas Alcoholic Council.
In addition to his commitment to civil rights and community service, Dr. Hardie was known and respected as a devoted scholar. A program that he established during his tenure as minister at Westover Hills arranged for national and international biblical scholars and theologians to lead the annual Cotham Lectures at Westover Hills and to speak at public schools. During his active years in the ministry he continued his own studies at St Andrews Institute, St Andrews, Scotland, Divinity School of The Pacific, Berkley, California, and Vancouver School of Theology, Vancouver, British Columbia. In 1984, after the death of his first wife, Dr. Hardie married Carolyn Cole McEwen.
In 1985, Preacher Dick retired from Westover Hills and completed his term as elected moderator of his denomination’s Presbytery of Arkansas. The following six years Dr. Hardie served as Director of Church Relations for Austin College, Sherman Texas. In 1991, the Hardies fulfilled a life long dream of his and traveled to Scotland for six months where he served as a volunteer Associate Minister at St Mary’s Parish Church in Dumfries, Scotland. On their return home Dr. Hardie served as an Interim pastor at First Presbyterian Church, Little Rock, Park Hill Presbyterian Church, North Little Rock, St Andrews Presbyterian Church, Little Rock and various other Presbyterian Churches through out the state.
In 2004, the Little Rock Board of Directors approved a resolution to rename a portion of Kavanaugh Blvd. in honor of Dr. Hardie. In their letter to the city, church members noted, “As a leader in building community relations, he sought to create an environment in which people of faith, who were white or African-American, Christian or Jew could live in peace and harmony.
His goal at all times has been to bring people together in mutual respect and understanding, but he has never lost sight of what is fair and just.” That renamed portion of Kavanaugh Blvd is now Richard B Hardie Drive.