Pictured above is little Miss Bernadine McGee as she is presenting Dr. Joseph A. Hardin with a beautiful “loving cup” in recognition of the many services he has rendered to the New Orleans community. Miss Mc Gee is representing the Children’s Civic League at an event held at the Phyllis Wheatley Home on Jackson Avenue, February 18, 1929.
By receiving this award, Dr. Hardin is being honored for the work he did throughout the 1920s, especially as an instrumental force behind the erection of the new Valena C. Jones Elementary School in the Seventh Ward and as president of the Seventh Ward Civic League.
Having been born in Scoba, Mississippi on July 29, 1875 where he was taught by private tutors, Joseph Arthur Hardin moved to New Orleans in 1890 at the age of fifteen. By 1895, he became very interested in politics and began working alongside Walter L. Cohen and James Lewis Jr. to promote the Republican Party. By 1900 he organized the Dryades Y.M.C.A. and fought for the elimination of racial bias that disqualified blacks from voting in Louisiana. By 1902, Hardin operated a drugstore and insurance company at Loyola and Tulane Avenues.
Two years later, Mr. Hardin graduated from Sarah Goodridge Memorial Medical School, New Orleans University and became professor of anatomy, physiology and nurse training at Flint Goodridge Hospital. He continued to practice medicine for the next 50 years and continued to remain a very active member of his community.
Dr. Hardin never stopped the work of doing for others in his community long after receiving his “loving cup” in 1929. Some of the other highlights of his career are listed below:
Throughout the 1930s, he was instrumental in securing the opening of the following schools which were desperately needed to educate children of color. They were: Johnson Lockett, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Booker T. Washington, Marie C. Couvent and Medard H. Nelson. He also fought to have African American history added to the curriculum.
In 1931, he urged the school board to furnish truant officers to save African-American children on the streets, and by 1934 he had secured the construction of a training school for delinquent boys which kept them from being imprisoned with hardened criminals.
By 1936, he became president of the Federation of Civic League, a city wide organization that grew out of the success of his work with the Seventh Ward Civic League. He also, that same year, took on the job as chairman of the Times Picayune Doll& Toy Fund- Christmas Gift Division.
In 1941, the Joseph A. Hardin Playground became a reality. For more than ten years, Dr. Hardin had devoted his efforts tirelessly toward having the park constructed. With more than 5,000 people at the dedication, the park, located in the 7th ward, received the distinction as one of the first public recreational facilities in the city for children of color.
By 1951, Dr. Hardin organized the 1st Cub Scout troop at Valena C. Jones School.
By 1954, he helped to establish recreational facilities at Lincoln Beach just one year after being named as an honorary member of the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce.
From 1940 -1953, Dr. Joseph A. Hardin held the office of Consul for Liberia during the administrations of both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman.
On November 15, 1954 Dr. Hardin passed away. He left behind a wife, Leontine Hardin along with five children: Lavida, Joseph Jr., Robert, Virgil and Jesse Hardin.
In 1958 the Joseph A. Hardin Elementary School was built and named in his honor as well as a new public housing project which was also constructed in his memory in 1981.
The things he did for himself were gone when he was gone, but the things he did throughout his life for so many others remains as his legacy.
Sources: Amistad Research Center, Joseph A. Hardin Papers (photo and articles); The Times- Picayune Obituary, 01 November 1954; U.S. Federal Census 1930-1940, Ancestry.com