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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

URI unveils sculpture of civil rights leader & first director of University's successful minority program

KINGSTON, R.I. -- September 12, 2000 -- The cloth coverings were lifted today, unveiling the impressive bronze sculpture of the Reverend Arthur L. Hardge, a noted civil rights leader who helped improve the lives and prospects of minorities living in Rhode Island.

The 6-foot artistic waist length interpretation of Hardge, dressed in cleric clothes and holding a Bible, sits on a 6-foot pedestal on the plaza in front of the Multicultural Center at the University of Rhode Island. The sculpture was cast at the Paul King Foundry in Johnston. Minority contractor Stan Cameron of Jain Corporation completed the first phase of erecting the statue, the support base. The firm, New England Stone, LLC of North Kingstown, created the pedestal which is made of granite.

The sculpture's location, in the heart of the URI campus, will make it possible for much of the campus community to view it on a daily basis.

URI President Robert L. Carothers dedicated the sculpture and authored the inscription of Hardge's life and legacy, which is engraved on a plaque on the pedestal. (See attached.)

The statue was designed and executed by Arnold Prince, a distinguished sculptor from Chaplin, Connecticut. The project was overseen by Robert Dilworth, a faculty member in the URI Art Department.

A descendent of a man who had his fingers lopped off for teaching and preaching, "the Rev," as Hardge was affectionately known, was the first director of the Special Programs for Talent Development at the URI. He died of heart disease in 1983.

The 31-year-old recruitment and retention program for disadvantaged students and students of color have become the pride of the University. The program began with 13 students and now enrolls 600. Its more than 1000 alumni have careers in nearly every profession, including medicine, law, business, higher education, and engineering.

The senior choir of the Community Baptist Church in Newport opened the dedication with the hymn "We've Come This Far by Faith." The Reverend Dr. Virgil Wood of the Ministers Alliance of Rhode Island gave the blessing. The Reverend Dr.Elias Hardge Jr., Hardge's brother, gave the benediction. Family friend Andrew Blunt from Georgia concluded the program by singing "If I Can Help Somebody."

Carothers, who heads a private $35,000 fundraising effort for the sculpture and its landscaped surrounding, donated the first $1,000 to the fund. Gifts to support the project are still sought. Anyone wishing to contribute may send their checks to the Hardge Memorial, payable to the URI Foundation, 21 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, R.I. 02881-0810.

Hardge served in Zion churches in New York, Oklahoma, Connecticut and Rhode Island. During the 1960s, his faith and activism took him to the forefront of the Civil Rights struggle. He was arrested for civil disobedience several times with other religious leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Hardge, especially active in the efforts to integrate the Tallahassee Municipal Airport, was arrested and convicted in the Tallahassee Freedom Ride and sentenced to 60 days on the Florida chain gang. After 10 days, a judge released Hardge by reversing the sentence. The reverend would later recount the Freedom Rides as a time when faith overcame fear.

In 1963, Hardge was named pastor of Hood Memorial AME Zion Church where his civil rights activism intensified. He served as the first chairman of the Rhode Island Chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Applying the principles of non-violent civil disobedience, Hardge led a successful movement to prod the General Assembly and the governor to pass the Rhode Island Fair Housing Law.

Hardge served as the executive secretary of the Rhode Island Commission Against Discrimination and became the first African-American gubernatorial cabinet appointment when the then Gov. John Chafee named him director of Community Affairs.

Hardge was a founding member of Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) of Rhode Island. As chairman in 1967, he guided the organization from its storefront existence in South Providence to a multi-faceted job training and human resource center that provides services to thousands of people of color and other disadvantaged persons.

In the wake of Dr. King's assassination in 1968, Hardge became the first African-American administrator at URI, advocating for justice through education.

At OIC, Hardge met sculptor Arnold Prince who was an artist for the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society, which had offices in the building. When the idea of a sculpture was proposed, Professor Dilworth suggested Prince.

Prince was educated in the British West Indies and the Art Students League of New York. He has taught sculpture since 1964. From 1972 to 1980, Prince was an assistant professor of sculpture at the Rhode Island School of Design. His work is represented in more than 100 private collections. Prince has been a member of the Sculptors Guild of New York since 1969 and a member of its board of directors since 1997.

To acknowledge his work, the Bannister Society which introduces art and culture to the Rhode Island African American community, presented Prince, with its LifeTime Achievement Award during the dedication ceremonies.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the assemblage walked to Edwards Auditorium to hear Martin Luther King's widow, civil rights activist Coretta Scott King, deliver URI's annual Convocation address which kicked off a semester-long Honors Program public lecture series on nonviolence.

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The inscription on the Hardge pedestal, written by URI President Robert L. Carothers, reads:

This Memorial honors the life and work of the Reverend Arthur L. Hardge, born in 1927, a man who led by serving his brothers and sisters until his death in 1983. He was the child of many cultures: Africa, Europe and those first Americans who lived on this land. The great grandson of a man who had his fingers lopped off for teaching and preaching, Arthur Hardge had a passion for learning that could not be so easily quelled.

Rev. Hardge was a minister from the age of seventeen. He was a leader of the Civil Rights Movement, jailed in Florida for refusing to leave a restaurant reserved for whites and later becoming the first black man in Rhode Island to head a state agency, creating jobs and hope for those who had little of either.

Building on a program established by Harold Langlois, and assisted by Leo DiMaio, Rev. Hardge later founded the Special Programs for Talent Development at the University of Rhode Island, in which "the Rev and Mr. D" changed the lives of thousands of young men and women. From those whom others gave no chance to succeed, Rev. Hardge built a new generation of doctors and lawyers, teachers and nurses, leaders of business and government, music and theater-the pride of this University. It was, he liked to say, "always a pleasure."

In his name, we dedicate ourselves to justice, equality and opportunity for all.

Dedicated September 12, 2000.

For Information: Jan Sawyer, 401-874-2116

 

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