Local Legend of The Prairie Tom Hardy passed away early Wednesday morning in Columbus surrounded by his family. Hardy was a beloved figure in the Friendly city, leaving a legacy of wartime heroics and steadfast integrity in his time on this earth. His passing has lefts heavy hearts here at the Packet and throughout Columbus. Friends will recall Tom’s good -natured attitude and his ultimate passion for aviation. Hardy stayed in the air as recently as last month, when, at age 93, he piloted his plane to Starkville to donate it to the Mississippi State Flight Club. An obituary provided by his family follows, as well as a chapter from Tom Mayfield’s Voices From The Prairie about the Hardy family. Mayfield noted yesterday that Hardy was, in many ways, the historian and the “Voice of The Prairie”. The Packet hopes to include more on Hardy’s legacy online in the coming week.
Thomas William Hardy, born in Columbus, Mississippi, November 8th, 1918, son of Bess Hall and James Harris Hardy, and husband of Sue Richards Hardy, died at Columbus, MS, on May 9th, 2012.
He grew up on Oakland Plantation, in southwest Lowndes County, MS, and graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Mississippi State College in 1939.
Upon graduation, he became an Experimental Test Engineer with the Pratt and Whitney Aircraft Corporation, in East Hartford, Connecticut, where he remained 3 ½ years until the United States entered World War II.
During the war, he served as a fighter pilot with Fighter Squadron VMF 312 of the U. S. Marines in the Pacific Theatre, where he was officially credited with destroying three Japanese planes in aerial combat.
On August 7, 1945, he was married to Sue Young Richards , of Columbus, and Ocean Springs, Mississippi. They had two children, Sallie Alyda, and Thomas William, Jr.
Following the war, he returned to Lowndes County to operate Oakland Plantation, of which he became the owner upon the death of his father in 1947.
He continued to operate the plantation for many years, and in addition became a real estate broker, specializing in the sale of farm lands in and around Lowndes County.
He is survived by his wife, Sue Hardy, daughter, Sallie Hardy(Charles Scott) of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, son, Will Hardy(Judy), three grandchildren, Alyda Hardy Merritt(Alex), of Atlanta, Ga, Emmaline Hardy, of Wilmington, North Carolina, and Ashley Hardy, of Richmond, Virginia, and Columbus, Mississippi.
Following cremation, he requested that his ashes be scattered at a later date in the garden at Oakland Plantation,.
Visitation will be held at 1 pm at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Columbus, Mississippi, with a memorial service following at 2 pm, on Saturday, May 12, 2012.
Memorials may be made to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, or to an organization of
the donors’ choice.
Thomas William Hardy
(An excerpt from Thomas Locke Mayfield’s Voices from the Prairie)
Thomas William Hardy acquired the Oakland Plantation that his family still owns today in the late 1860`s from a family member, Dr. Cornelius Hardy. Dr. Hardy had acquired Oakland, which was built in 1842 from his wife’s father, Mr. William
Thomas William Hardy married Sallie Bailey on June 29, 1881, in Mississippi. The Hardy’s had four children who lived to adulthood, they were James Harris Hardy who was born in 1894, Thomas Bailey Hardy who was born in 1884, Lucile Hardy who was born in 1888, and Lenore Hardy, born 1890. Thomas William Hardy Sarah Elizabeth Bailey Hardy
The Thomas William Hardy family has had a major impact on the prairie land that they have owned for so many years. Tom William Hardy worked the land on their plantation, planting and growing cotton and corn as their main crops. The hard
manual labor was done by sharecroppers who in most cases were former slaves on the plantation before the Civil War.
The post war years were very hard times for all those who lived on the prairie, both blacks and whites after the war. But over time the Hardy’s created a successful
plantation to support a growing Hardy family and over seventy black sharecropper family members who lived on the plantation. When Tom Hardy’s children reached adulthood, he and his wife moved to Columbus and acquired from his wife’s family the Harris home known as Whitehall on Third Street South. He then divided his prairie land between his sons. His son James Harris Hardy acquired the south part of the land on which the plantation home was located and his son Thomas Bailey Hardy acquired his part of the land that was located to the north part, which he called Itawold Plantation (It was later called the T. Bailey Hardy Place). Thomas William Hardy’s two daughters, Lucile Hardy who was born in 1888 and married Orman Lanier Kinbrough in 1908 and Lenore Hardy who was born in 1890 and married Thomas Carleton Billups III. Thomas William Hardy died at Whitehall in Columbus on December 3, 1917. His wife Sara and some other family members continued to live at Whitehall after the death of Sara’s husband. Sara Elizabeth Hardy died in Columbus at Whitehall in 1936. Thomas William Hardy and his wife Sara Elizabeth Hardy were both buried in Friendship Cemetery in Columbus.
James Harris Hardy married Bess Bielby Hall on January 17, 1918. They had two children, Thomas W. Hardy, born in 1919 and Emmaline Hardy, born in 1926. James’ wife, Bess, died on December 30, 1929. Thomas Bailey Hardy married Mary Ita Sherman April 22, 1914 and they had no children. The Hardy brothers, James Harris and Thomas Bailey continued to build on what their father had started of running a very profitable farm operation on their respective plantations. They continued to grow cotton and corn and added a successful diary farm operation. Their dairy sold their milk to a Hardy family co-op called Realicious Dairy, which was owned by several Hardy families. The dairy closed down after operating for about ten years when the family found out that another company already had obtained a patent of the name they had been using for their dairy. Harris Hardy Bess Hall
James Harris Hardy’s son, Tom, and his sister Emmaline both attended grade school on the prairie and then attended and graduated from Lee High School in Columbus.
Tom then attended Mississippi State University. While at Mississippi State, Tom was a member of the R.O.T.C. After high school and college, Emmaline married Benjamin Carrick of Memphis and they had one son, Lane Carrick, who is now a banker in Memphis. Emmaline died in Memphis on July 16, 1986. When the United States entered W.W.II, Tom Hardy entered the service as a Second Lt. in the U.S. Marine Air Corps flying Corsair fighter planes in the battle against the Japanese in the Pacific. When the war ended in 1945, Tom married Sue in Biloxi, Mississippi on August 7, 1945.
Tom first met Sue on a family vacation in Ocean Springs, Mississippi when he was ten years old. After a short stay with the military in Washington D.C., Tom and Sue returned to Mississippi and made their home at Oakland Plantation on the prairie they both loved. They now have been married for sixty-five years as of 2010, the year this story was written. In the fall of 1945, Tom Hardy’s father married Ruth Maxwell and they had one child Madelyn Hardy, who is now married and lives in Florida with her family and they made their home at Whitehall, in Columbus. Tom and his father continued to run their plantation on the prairie as their family had done before them. During this time in the late 1940`s Tom Hardy’s uncle, Thomas Bailey Hardy, continued to run his successful plantation which was just across the road from Tom and his father’s plantation, Oakland.
Tragedy struck the Hardy family on January 25, 1947 when James Harris Hardy, Tom Hardy`s father and pilot of the plane along with his brother-in-law Thomas Carleton Billups who was a passenger, were both killed about 11:30 a.m. in the morning when their plane plunged into a wooded area three and one-half miles east of Lake Village, Arkansas. The plane was a Globe-Swift “85” cabin two passenger mono-coupe. It was owned and piloted by Mr. Hardy.
The coupe had left Columbus airport about seven am the morning before and they were en route to Tyler, Texas to visit Mr. Billups son, T.C. Billups, IV. After the death of his father and Carleton Billups III, whose wife was his father’s sister, Tom was left to run Oakland on his own.
When he started running the plantation on his own, there were still a large number of sharecroppers and their families working and living on the plantation. Tom knew that it was time to start using more machines and fewer sharecroppers to work the land. However, Tom felt it would be wrong to start replacing these families with farm machines. In 1947, the sharecroppers were the children and grandchildren of slaves that in most cases were born on the plantation. Tom decided to let the families continue to live on the plantation as long as they wanted and to live the remainder of their lives at Oakland. He did encourage their young family members to leave the land to look for work when they became of age. The result of this action over time was that most of the sharecroppers moved off the land at Oakland and at other plantations throughout Mississippi and the rest of the American Southland by the 1950’s and 1960’s. Farm machines started doing the work on the land replacing farm labor.
Tom and Sue Hardy raised their family at Oakland. This included their daughter, Sallie, who was born in 1947 and their son Will, born in 1951. Today Will Hardy and his wife Judy Hardy live at Oakland and Sallie Hardy lives with her husband Charles Scott and their family in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Tom and Sue Hardy as
of 2010 still live active lives in Columbus. Tom is 92 and Sue Hardy is 94.
Tom Hardy continues his love of flying, owning a small plane for many years. In a news story in the Columbus Commercial Dispatch Newspaper, September 14, 2003 by Editor Birney Imes, Tom said, “that his first encounter with airplanes came when he was 3 or 4 years old”. A barnstormer flying a World War biplane known as a ‘Jenny’ landed in a pasture near his home in the prairie. Hardy’s mother, Bess, anteed up $5 for a ride. “I have a distinct recollection of seeing my mother climb into that plane and disappear into the distance, Hardy said. “ I thought I’d never see her again,” Imes said in his story, Hardy was a Marine fighter pilot during World War II earning three combat Air Medals for shooting down three Japanese planes. He’s continued flying since, using a small single-engine plane in his real estate and land management business. Imes stated that Tom said that his cousin Bob Hardy had introduced him to soaring in gliders, and he’s been at it since. He told Imes that the “the attraction for me in flying gliders is to go somewhere using nature’s forces, finding and using air to go somewhere and go at the maximum possible speed.” Birney Imes story tells about Tom taking Birney for a ride in his glider. Birney Imes said after his ride with Tom that “ Tom at 84 is an ageless adventurer and that he’s the Columbus version of Sir Edmund Hillary.” Tom is truly is a special gift from the prairie.