Columbus businessman, civic leader, World War II officer and legendary foxhound breeder Benjamin Hurt Hardaway III died early Thursday morning at his Midland home.
He was 98. The funeral will be held at St. Paul United Methodist Church with a private interment at Linwood Cemetery. The details are not complete.
Roy Greene, a retired Phenix City lawyer, banker and owner of Cable TV of East Alabama, has known Hardaway since they were in high school. Through the years, the two men have traveled the world with Hardaway’s hounds.
“You will never be able to replace Ben Hardaway,” Greene said Thursday morning in a rare interview. “He did more good than people realize. He gave to his church and he gave to his community. He was a leader in anything he chose to be a leader in.”
The two men were part of a group that used to sit “at the round table at the old Ralston Hotel,” Green said. But Hardaway’s reach extended far beyond that round table and his Columbus roots. Greene remembers meeting Prince Charles while in England.
“The future King of England said, ‘I think we have met before,’” Greene recalled. “I remember he said, ‘I don’t think so, because I would have remembered that.”
Hardaway was successful in cross-breeding of his July hounds with English hounds to create Midland hounds, which brought him world-wide recognition. Over the years, he and his family have owned thousands of dogs, keeping as many as 100 or more at a time on the family farm.
The dogs put him in international circles.
In 1997, Hardaway self-published his memoir, “Never Outfoxed,” which focused on his love for dogs, dog breeding and hunting.
‘I believe. I believe.’
He was inducted into the Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame in 2010 at age 90. At the time, he told Ledger-Enquirer correspondent Kathy Gierer one of his favorite stories.
A young Fort Benning soldier named Cliff Miller was one of the many hunters that Hardaway befriended, and he hunted with Hardaway every Sunday while stationed on post. Miller’s father, Cliff Sr., lived in Virginia and was part of a group that doubted the Midland hounds could live up to the hype. He invited Hardaway and his hounds to make a road trip.
“I’d never taken my hounds to strange country,” Hardaway said at the time. “We had a pretty good run. My hounds didn’t let me down. I left a good dog with the huntsmen, the steadiest in the pack. I later came to a lot of hunts in Virginia.”
But the Virginians were not fully convinced of the superior quality of the Hardaway dogs.
Miller and company needed more proof. “He wrote me and said that two or three masters want to come visit you and see your hounds,” Hardaway said. “He came down here and still wasn’t convinced. He said that no pack in America could run Turkey Mountain without running a deer. I told him my dogs would not run a deer. So we picked a date and I went back up there.”
After a long, successful hunt that finally cornered a particularly elusive fox, hunter Mike Marsh waved the white flag. “I told Mike I wanted him to get on his knees and apologize to my hounds. He said, ‘I want to apologize. Everything I heard about is the truth.’ He got down on his knees and told my hounds, ‘I believe. I believe.’ I do believe that was one of my proudest moments.”
Of the thousands of dogs he owned, Hardaway had a favorite, Wade, a black, brown and white female hound he owned in the 1960s. A portrait of the dog hung in Hardaway’s home.
“He loved that dog,” said Mason Lampton, his son-in-law. “That dog was superior in performance. She could find the scent when others would go right over it.”
‘Quite an adventure’
Hardaway graduated from the Virginia Military Institute with a B.S. in Civil Engineering in 1940. He did a brief post-graduate stint at the University of Georgia, according to his book.
“I majored in partying and chasing women,” he said in his biography. “After the discipline of military school, it was nice to let my hair down, so to speak. It didn’t take long to get enough of that, so I quit, came home and went to work for the Hardaway Company.”
In 1942, Hardaway was called into military service. He was sent to Fort Riley, Kan., and attended the last horse class at the cavalry school.
During World War II, he served in the Armored Cavalry as aide to Gen. Manton S. Eddy, achieving the rank of major. Eddy was one of the top generals under Gen. George Patton.
In his book, Hardaway covers his military service in a single paragraph.
“There was much that happened in those few years of service to my country, but suffice it to say that was quite an adventure and I don’t want to do it again,” he wrote.
He was a decorated soldier, who was awarded the Bronze Star and the Silver Star. He landed at Omaha Beach the third day of the invasion and fought his way across France.
He left the service in 1945 when the war ended and returned to Columbus. It didn’t take long for him to start dating Sarah McDuffie, who was six years his junior.
“I had dated Sarah’s sister, Lucille, before I left for Europe, but at that time Sarah was six years younger than I and went unnoticed,” Hardaway wrote. “While I was gone, she grew up and became very noticeable.”
Hardaway had a long connection to public education in Muscogee County. He was a graduate of Columbus High School in the 1930s. Like his father before him, he served on the Board of Education. Hardaway High School is named after Hardaway’s father.
He was on the board of Royal Crown Cola, and on the board of First National Bank, where at one time he was the largest shareholder of the bank. Like his father, he served in a leadership at St. Paul United Methodist Church.
The Hardaway Foundation has been a continued supporter of the school that holds the family name. For the 50th anniversary, the family donated a new track around the school’s football field. Each year, two Hardaway graduates are awarded college scholarship money through the family foundation, which Ben Hardaway III chaired.
Based in Columbus, the Hardaway Company built roads, dams, airports and bridges across the country. The business was started by Hardaway’s grandfather and run by his father, and he came into it full bore not long after returning from World War II.
The Hardaway Company was one of the first in the United States to use pre-stressed concrete piliings and beams, Lampton said. That is the primary business for the company, known now as Standard Concrete Company.
The last major dam the company built was Wallace Dam in Eaton, Ga., on the Ocoee River in the 1970s. Locally, the Hardway Company built the Oliver Dam in north Columbus for Georgia Power Company. That was one of the last projects Hardaway was directly involved in. He was in his late 50s when the process to sell the business to his son-in-law began.
As Hardaway shifted into retirement, he truly enjoyed his final decades, Lampton said.
“He had a zest for life, a great sense of humor and with the leveraged buyout, he was well funded,” Lampton said.
Hardaway had a saying, comparing his retirement to breakfast, Lampton said.
“He would say, ‘I want my money and my life to be like my molasses and my pancakes,’” Lampton said. “He would say he never wanted to run out of molasses when he was eating his pancakes and he never wanted to run out of money.”
Hardaway is survived by four daughters: Sarah Page Hardaway Flournoy, 70; Mary Lucile Hardaway Lampton, 68; Susannah Hardaway Rossi, 65; and Ann Vines Hardaway Taylor, 58.