William Eugene “Gene” Hardin Jr., 94, of Greenville died Wednesday, June 14, 2017. Funeral services will be at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 17, 2017, at Woodland Heights Methodist Church with the Rev. Joe Lisenby officiating. The family will receive friends one hour prior to services. Interment will follow at Magnolia Cemetery with Dunklin Daniels Funeral Home directing.
He was born April 10, 1923, in Bessemer to William Eugene and Vivian Lee Johnson Hardin. He grew up in Andalusia where he graduated from Andalusia High School (AHS) in 1941. While at AHS, he was named Mr. Andy High, lettered in three sports and was captain of the football team. During his junior year, Hardin played every minute of every game and was offered a football scholarship to Troy University.
In 1941, the family moved to Macon, Ga., where he worked in the Cochran Field Hospital emergency room. Hardin enlisted in the Army Air Corps medical unit in 1942, where he saw stateside service in Bainbridge, Ga.; Bangor, Maine; Stuttgart, Ark.; and Slippery Rock, Pa. For 40 days, he was on a troop transport from Virginia to Bombay, India. His first assignment was as a medic in the jungles of Burma. He was then transferred to Division Headquarters in Calcutta where he was in charge of all records for enlisted personnel in Air Transport Command for the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations. In 1945, Hardin was part of a medical team that flew two iron lung patients from India to California. In 1946, he was honorably discharged from service. He was a continuous member of American Legion Post 24 in Greenville for more than 50 years.
Mr. Hardin attended Mercer University. In 1946, he enrolled at The University of Alabama (UA) and joined Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. He announced UA basketball and football on WSGN radio.
With two fraternity brothers, Hardin moved to Greenville in 1948 to open Radio Station WGYV. Known to his many listeners as “The Boogie Man,” he was also the sports announcer for the station. He covered Jack McKeon who was playing then for the Greenville Pirates minor league baseball team. McKeon, nicknamed “Trader Jack,” later was the manager of the World Series Champion Team Florida Marlins.
In April 1949, Hardin married Marianne “Nonnie” Stanley, daughter of Glenn and Mary Louise Beeland Stanley. The coupled lived in Mobile where he worked for Radio Station WABB. They returned to Greenville in 1951, when Hardin began his long, distinguished career with The Greenville Advocate.
Upon the death of Glenn Stanley in 1967, Hardin became the third editor of The Greenville Advocate. Under his leadership, the paper moved from flat-bed to offset printing and eventually type-setting computerization. The paper consistently won awards in the Alabama Press Association (APA) Better Newspaper Contest. Following in the footsteps of his predecessors James B. Stanley, Glenn and Webb Stanley, Hardin was president of the APA. He received the APA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003. Hardin served as editor and publisher of The Greenville Advocate until the paper was sold to Boone Newspapers in December 1994.
Always active in his community, Hardin served eight years on the Greenville City Council and as mayor pro tem for four of those years. He was manager and president of the Greenville Chamber of Commerce and was named Jaycee “Man of the Year.” A 66-year member of the Greenville Lions Club, he was elected district governor twice. He spearheaded the club’s effort to establish the World War II Memorial on the grounds of City Hall. He was named a Melvin Jones fellow for dedicated humanitarian services by Lions Club International. Hardin was a charter member of the Greenville Industrial Development Board and was chairman until his death. He was a member and past president of the Butler County Manufacturers Association.
Mr. Hardin served in the Alabama House of Representatives for eight years during the gubernatorial terms of Lurleen B. Wallace, Albert Brewer and George C. Wallace. He sponsored a local bill while in the legislature which had a significant impact on Greenville. The bill changed ownership of Sherling Lake from the state to the city of Greenville. This bill laid the foundation for the development of Cambrian Ridge Golf Course. In 1972, Hardin received the Legislative Conservation Award from the Alabama Wildlife Federation.
A strong supporter of education, Hardin was president of W. O. Parmer PTA, on the board at Fort Dale Academy, and a member of the Advisory Board of Lurleen B. Wallace College. At the request of then-president Ralph Adams, he worked with Jimmie Faulkner of Bay Minette to establish the Hall School of Journalism at Troy State University. He served on the school’s advisory board for a number of years.
Mr. Hardin was a proud charter member of Woodland Heights Methodist Church, where he taught Sunday School for more than 50 years. He served his church as trustee and chairman of the board.
Mr. Hardin was preceded in death by his parents, brother Raymond Lowery Hardin, and wife Nonnie. He is survived by three daughters: Mollie Utley, Laurie Norman and Jean Hardin, all of Greenville; one son, William Eugene “Bill” Hardin III and wife, Elizabeth, of Montgomery; seven grandchildren: Marianne Alverson Gilchrist (John), Birmingham, Leah Utley Coles (John), Nashville; Virginia Lee Alverson, Nashville, Elizabeth Utley Sheehan (Allen), Montgomery, Frank M. Alverson Jr., Charleston, and Caroline Elizabeth and William E. Hardin IV, Montgomery; and four great-grandchildren: Katherine Louise and Anne Hardin Coles, Nashville, Ford Stanley Sheehan, Montgomery, and, Marianne Barganier Gilchrist, Birmingham.
Pallbearers are Frank Alverson, Will Hardin, John Coles, John Gilchrist, Allen Sheehan, Richard Hartley, Frank Hickman, and Todd Henderson.
Honorary pallbearers are Charles W. Jones, Sumpter McGowin, members of Woodland Heights Methodist Church and members of the Greenville Lions Club.
Memorial contributions may be made to Alabama Lions Sight in care of the Greenville Lions Club.