Joseph Carrol Hardin (1898–1992)

Joseph Carrol Hardin was a civic leader and politician throughout most of the twentieth century. He is best known for running for governor against Orval Faubus in 1960. While Hardin maintained his segregationist stance during the 1960 campaign, he proclaimed, “I am not a dynamiting, riot-calling segregationist.”

Joe Hardin, one of the five surviving children of Thomas J. Hardin Jr. and Bettie Hall Hardin, was born on June 1, 1898, at Grady (Lincoln County). His father died when Hardin was a boy, leaving his mother to raise the children and run the family farm. Hardin attended Grady public schools and, with the help of teacher Edith Jackman Combs, was able to graduate from the nearest high school, at Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). Hardin served in World War I and finished college. He married Miriam Dodge Warren of Pine Bluff in 1936; they had no children.

Hardin represented Lincoln County in the state legislature from 1931 to 1933. He served as state commissioner of revenue under Governor Homer Adkins from 1941 to 1942. Hardin was president of the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation from 1948 until 1955, when Witt Stephens appointed him vice president and general manager for Arkansas operations at Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company (ARKLA). Hardin left ARKLA in 1959 to become president of the Arkansas Plant Food Corporation. Hardin farmed his 1,000-acre family farm at Grady throughout his lifetime.

Hardin was vice president of the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce in 1959, when that organization sought the recall of three Little Rock School Board members who tried to purge forty-four teachers and administrators believed to be integrationists. Faubus criticized Hardin in a televised speech preceding the recall election.

On April 23, 1960, Hardin announced his intention to oppose Faubus in the July 26 Democratic Party primary. He joined Attorney General Bruce Bennett and H. F. Williams, president of Southern Baptist College (now Williams Baptist University) in Walnut Ridge (Lawrence County); Faubus claimed that all three men were backed by a “hard core of integrationists.” Faubus specifically claimed that, on April 19, Hardin had met with a group of “hardcore integrationists” at an undisclosed location in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Hardin, who described himself as “the thinking man’s candidate,” called that charge “Lie No. 1” and claimed that Faubus could “write my plank on [segregation] if he leaves dynamite and mob violence out.”

In May 1960, Hardin came out against proposed Amendment 52, which would have allowed Arkansas school districts to dissolve their schools and issue tuition grants for use at private schools. Hardin also opposed Act 10 of 1958, which required educators in public schools and colleges, including at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), to submit affidavits listing all organizations they had belonged to or supported over the past five years. Hardin called the law “ineffective, unnecessary, and insulting.” He further opposed the 1959 law that allowed Arkansas presidential electors to vote for candidates of their own choosing.

As a gubernatorial candidate, Hardin, who had served on the UA Board of Trustees, criticized the state legislature for under-funding the medical school, now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). He was particularly critical of Perry County representative Paul Van Dalsem, chair of the Arkansas Legislative Council, and said he had contemplated “stripping [Van Dalsem] of some of that power.” Hardin issued a plan for the medical school that included filling beds to capacity (at the time, 240 out of 400 beds were filled), encouraging research, and attracting “the kind of staff doctors we need to establish the university as a leading center for providing medical training.”

Hardin’s gubernatorial platform also included “the right of the Negro to vote” and maintaining the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission (now the Arkansas Economic Development Commission). Hardin received several favorable editorials from the Arkansas Gazette. Of the five candidates who ultimately ran in the 1960 Democratic primary, Hardin came in second with 66,499 votes to Faubus’s 238,997.

Hardin continued his long career of farming and public service. He belonged to an advisory committee at UAMS and to the Arkansas River Basin Development Association. He was added to the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame in 1988 and was well known for growing pecans and distributing them widely as Christmas presents. He died on March 6, 1992. In October 1993, Arkansas River Lock and Dam No. 3 of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System was renamed the Joe Hardin Lock and Dam.

As of 2012, Hardin Farms remains a family-owned working farm in Grady, with markets in Grady and Scott (Pulaski and Lonoke counties).

For additional information:
“Joseph Hardin of Grady, 93, Ex-State Legislator, Civic Leader.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 8, 1992, p. 6B.

Owen, Rhonda. “Deep Roots.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 19, 2012, pp. 1E, 6E.

Valachovic, Ernest. “‘Hard-Core Integrators’ Behind All His Rivals, Governor Faubus Says.” Arkansas Gazette, April 21, 1960, pp. 1, 2A.

———. “Hardin Enters Race with Strong Retort to Faubus Charges.” Arkansas Gazette, April 24, 1960, pp. 1, 2A.

Brooke Malloy
Old State House Museum


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