Greenville Rotarians honor Hardin with Paul Harris Fellowship Award
Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 3, 2007
He served his country with distinction in WW II and became a leading figure in newspaper publishing in Alabama.
As a legislator and civic leader, he dedicated himself to promoting growth in his adopted hometown and home county.
Covington County native W.E. “Gene” Hardin was recently honored by the Greenville Rotarians for his many contributions to the community he long ago adopted as home.
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The organization presented the former editor of The Greenville Advocate with its Paul Harris Fellowship Award at their recent Valentine's Supper, held at The Chef's Table downtown.
Hardin, a longtime member of the Greenville Lions Club, said he was “shocked but very gratified” to be chosen for the honor.
“I'm into my 56th year as a Greenville Lion, and here is this other club honoring me. It was quite a surprise and a great honor,” Hardin said.
According to the nomination form, the award is given to non-Rotarians who “have shown high ethical standards in their business and personal lives and who have committed time and energy to community organizations to improve society.” The candidates are also expected to demonstrate leadership in the community and to have helped “create a better world in which we live.”
Ralph Stacy, former director of the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce and Hardin's pastor at Woodland Heights Methodist Church, nominated Hardin for the honor.
In his nomination letter, Stacy noted Hardin's “stellar service record and a booming basso-profundo voice” landed the veteran at the University of Alabama, where he pursued a degree in communications and spinned platters as a disk jockey.
“The Boogie Man” became a popular DJ at a Greenville radio station and also found the love of his life, Nonnie Stanley Hardin, right here in the Camellia City.
Marrying and becoming a permanent part of the community, Hardin became the first executive secretary of the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce. He later joined the staff of The Greenville Advocate, where he served in many capacities, taking the helm as editor with the passing of Glenn Stanley in 1967.
Hardin juggled duties as a newspaper man and a member of the Alabama Legislature, a hectic but fruitful time, the community leader recalls.
A dedicated member of the Greenville Lions, he's served in many capacities in the organization, including president and state governor. Hardin and fellow Lion Herbert Morton led a successful fundraising drive to establish a county monument to all those who served in WW II.
Hardin was also instrumental in the development of Sherling Lake, which proved the genesis for Cambrian Ridge, Greenville's stop on the award-winning Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.
The beauty of the city was enhanced by Hardin's enthusiasm for the camellia, leading him to plant camellias at Beeland Park and avidly promote the beautiful blooms in the newspaper. His efforts helped Greenville truly become the “Camellia City.”
Over the years, Hardin juggled duties to family, community and his church, serving on PTA committees, supporting local youth activities, and serving as chairman of the board of trustees at Woodland Heights Methodist Church, a congregation “in which he played an integral role in its formation,” Stacy said (he still teaches a Sunday School class there).
“He was the ubiquitous voice for every pageant, play and program for decades in Butler County, as he emceed events and brought his genuine sense of humor to light,” Stacy said.
Even after his retirement from the newspaper business in the 1990s, Hardin hardly rested on his laurels.
He took charge of a foundering Butler County Commission for Economic Development and helped re-establish it as a development force for south Alabama. Additionally, Hardin “re-energized” the Butler County Manufacturers Association, which he served as president.
One of Hardin's proudest moments was being inducted two years ago into the Alabama Press Association Hall of Fame for his dedication to the newspaper profession. “It is always good to be recognized by your peers,” Hardin has said.
Stacy lauded his friend and parishioner's ability to continue to lead the way by “providing a sounding board and sound advice to another generation of leaders in the Camellia City.”
The Paul Harris Fellowship Award was established in 1957 in honor of Harris, one of the founding members of the organization, to express appreciation for a contribution to the humanitarian and educational programs of The Rotary Foundation.
Rotarians also designate a Paul Harris Fellow to recognize someone whose life demonstrates a shared purpose with the objectives and missions of The Rotary Foundation to build world understanding and peace.
“We certainly feel Mr. Hardin is a very worthy recipient of this award and are glad we could honor him in this way,” said Greenville Rotary President, Roy Hale.