Boys to men: Remembering the Rev. Jimmie Hardee
Todd Hardee sums up his father, Jimmie “Jim” Lawrence Hardee, like this: “He understood a horse, and he understood a boy.”
Rev. Jim Hardee, 82, died Jan. 23. Funeral services were held Jan. 25. Hardee was a minister serving the United Methodist Church for more than 50 years. He and his wife, Billie, were co-directors of Darlington Youth Home, later known as the Billie Hardee Home for Boys.
“That was my Mama and Daddy’s life work,” says Todd Hardee, Darlington County coroner and a Darlington businessman. “You ask what they were known for, they were known for the boys’ home and the development of boys.”
Hardee estimates 10,000 boys – some in trouble at school, some in trouble for truancy, some orphaned, some dealing with emotional problems – came through that facility during the 40-some years it operated.
None went to prison, Hardee says. Half graduated high school and 10 percent went to college, he says. Almost every day for many years, Hardee says, men who passed through the boys’ home would stop by to see the elder Hardee. “They remembered him.”
Jim Hardee believed that “your personality, who you are” was formed by the time you were 4 or 5, his son says. “When you get to be 6, 7, 8 years old, that’s when you learn to lie, tell things that aren’t true.”
The elder Hardee, his son says, believed that by the time you were 14, bad habits, problems you’d picked up during your life, were “in there.” Jim Hardee felt that his mission was undoing years of bad habits.
One tool that he used to do that was horses.
“My Daddy was a horse person,” Todd Hardee says. “The love of his life was his grandchildren and his horses. All my life, my Daddy was a horse man. He always was into horses.”
During the 1990s, Hardee says, his father noticed some ads running in the News & Press – the federal Bureau of Land Management was looking for people to adopt wild mustangs. Jim Hardee liked that idea.
The elder Hardee adopted about 10 “raw” mustangs, for $150 each, and decided to train them and to mix the horses with the boys’ home, creating the Hurricane Trail, an eight-week camp for troubled boys, Todd Hardee says.
“He understood a horse, and he understood a boy, and he would put the two together, and over an eight-week period, both of them would be totally different when they came out,” Hardee says.
Todd Hardee’s son Templin Hardee, like his grandfather, also loved horses – “They were horsers.” He read from a letter Templin wrote in which Templin said that Jim Hardee was never sure if the horses broke the boys or if the boys broke the horses. Templin also told stories about Jim Hardee’s tough love on the horse rides with the boys: After one awkward accident, Jim Hardee told a boy, “Stupid hurts, son.”
Jim Hardee received the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest civilian honor, as did his wife Billie. “Every award you can win, he won,” Todd Hardee says.
“My Daddy was adamant that if you would simply love your neighbor, a lot of things could be solved,” Hardee says. “ … Daddy knew people’s names all over town. He spent his lifetime getting to know these people.”
The family held a fish fry in Jim Hardee’s honor at Todd Hardee’s Grand Old Post Office on Pearl Street in Darlington. According to his obituary, “ ‘The Lord did a lot with two fish,’ he would often say. This was a lesson Jim took very seriously and has done many fish fries over the years to accomplish many things, none more important than that of learning to love your neighbor. This final fish fry was his wish, and his instruction to his family.”
Memorials may be made to Epworth Children’s Home, 2900 Millwood Ave., Columbia SC 29205.