John Garrick Hardy was born in Mobile, Alabama during 1904; he was the second child of John and Pinkie Hardy. John Hardy’s mother died when he was two years old and he went to live with his grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. William Sommerville, also of Mobile. A young John Hardy remained with them until almost three years of age. During that early period of his life, John’s grandfather instilled in him principles of right behavior, which became as guiding principles in developing a sense of integrity and self-discipline.
At age four, his mother’s sister, Mrs. Wyman and her husband Henry, assumed the responsibility of rearing him in Montgomery, Alabama. His aunt was determined that he be given the best educational opportunities available and that he develop his talent for music. His early education was in private schools and he learned to play several musical instruments, including the guitar, saxophone and the violin. John also sang with various choirs and participated in all types of sports. Once, after having his arm broken while playing ball, his aunt taught him how to knit and tatting stitches while he recuperated. This was done, as she told him, so that he would always remember to use his time wisely and not to disparage and any kind of work.
Hardy’s first paying job, at eight, was that of handing out fans at the Pekins Theatre in Montgomery, Alabama, where he met millionaire-owner, Daniel C. Knox. Knox was so impressed by John’s attitude toward work, that he asked young John to live with him and become chief office cleaner. Overtime Knox gave John gave the responsibility of depositing all the money and eventually the privilege of driving the Knox’s car.
Hardy worked with the Ruben & Cherry Carnival traveling company where he excelled. John took charge of the entire pay-roll for the carnival and assumed overseer for all cars in the company. After three years with the carnival, John decided to enter Tuskegee, but only stayed one and half months—then it was back to the carnival. At the end of the fourth year with the carnival, John again entered Tuskegee Institute, this time staying one month. His next door neighbor, Nancy Gray encouraged John to enter Calhoun School for the second semester. With the help of teacher Ella Coy, John was able to complete the eighth grade in, 1925. In the fall of that same year John enrolled in State Normal (now known as Alabama State University) as a ninth grade student. He received the B.S. degree from Alabama State College in 1932, and from there entered Iowa State College, where he received his M.S. in Vocational Guidance. In 1946 John received a Ph.D. degree from the University of Wisconsin.
Dr. Hardy was the first Black in the State of Alabama, who graduated from an all Black Public State supported institution of higher learning, to receive a Master’s degree (Iowa State University) and a Ph.D. degree (University of Wisconsin). After receiving the Master’s degree in nine months, Dr. Hardy returned to what is now Alabama State University to begin in the fall of 1933. The newly minted professor began a teaching career which spans forty-six years of association with the school. Dr. Hardy was well known for his work with a group of student leaders known as the Marshalls, and he was voted as ASU’s Great Teacher in 1971. Dr. hardy worked with as the Executive Secretary of the Alabama State Teachers Association, with the National Sociological Honor Society. He was a powerful presence on the Alabama State University campus and was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in the spring of 1977.
Dr. Hardy became involved with a number of community based organizations. A long time supporter of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, Dr. Hardy raised money and advocated for the March of Dimes for some thirty years. He was a Board of Trustee member, and Outstanding Man of the Year for Bethel Baptist Church. In a popular yearly celebration, Hardy served as a twelve-year chair of the Montgomery Emancipation Proclamation Celebration and a member of the prestigious Sigma Ph Phi also known as the Boule. Dr. Hardy was also a Mason and past Grand Exalted Rulers, 33rd Degree. In 1977, he was elected Elk of the Year at the state level. In terms of public service, Dr. Hardy worked with the Montgomery Boys’ club, the Montgomery Community Action Agency, and the Montgomery County Library Board.
Dr. Hardy married the former Mildred Motley and they had one child, attorney Johnelia Philippa and a grandson, Hermon Cortez, Jr.