Sculpture to honor founder of
successful minority program at URI
KINGSTON, R.I. -- November 19, 1999 -- The Rev. Arthur L. Hardge, a noted
civil rights leader, never lived to see the growth and strength of the Special
Programs for Talent Development at the University of Rhode Island. With
his friend Leo DiMaio, Hardge founded the recruitment and retention program
for students of color and disadvantaged persons 31 years ago. Hardge died
of heart disease at 56 in 1983.
To acknowledge his legacy, the University has commissioned Arnold Prince
of Chaplin, Conn. to create a larger-than-life memorial bust of Hardge
with a pedestal. The sculpture will pay tribute to the 1960s Freedom Rider
who was an early colleague of Dr. Martin Luther King. URI President Robert
L. Carothers is heading the $20,000 private fund-raising effort for the
sculpture and has donated $1,000 to the fund.
The bronze sculpture will be placed in front of the opening arch of URI's
Multicultural Center, which is located in the heart of Kingston campus.
Its location will make it possible for the much of campus community to view
the bust on a daily basis.
Hardge served in Zion churches in New York, Oklahoma, Connecticut and
Rhode Island. During the 1960s, Hardge's faith and activism took him into
the forefront of the Civil Rights struggle. He was arrested for civil disobedience
several times along with other religious leaders, including King. Hardge,
particularly 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 a Florida chain gang. After 10 days, a judge reversed
the sentence and Hardge was released. In later years, Hardge would recount
the Freedom Rides as a time when faith overcame fear.
In 1963, Hardge was named pastor of Hood Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church
in Rhode Island, where his civil rights activism continued to intensify.
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 H. Chafee named him director
of the Rhode Island Department of Community Affairs.
In the wake of Dr. King's assassination, Hardge became the first African
- American administrator at URI, advocating for justice through education.
Working with his close friend Leo DiMaio, Hardge fostered growth in the
Talent Development Program and left a legacy of successful graduates. The
program that began with 13 students now enrolls 600 and has alumni serving
in every profession, including medicine, law, business, higher education,
Hardge was also a founding member of Opportunities Industrialization
Center (OIC) of Rhode Island. Becoming chairman of OIC in 1967, he guided
the organization from its storefront existence in South Providence to a
multifaceted job-training and human resource center that provides services
to thousands of people of color and other disadvantaged persons.
At OIC Hardge met Sculptor Prince who was an artist for the Rhode Island
Black Heritage Society which had offices in the building. The two became
friends. When the idea of a sculpture was proposed, URI art professor Robert
Dilworth suggested it would be fitting if Prince created the Hardge sculpture.
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, the
artist was an assistant professor of sculpture in the Fine Arts Department
of 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.
The Hardge family has more than one connection with the University. A
son, Marc Hardge, is currently employed by URI's Multicultural Center and
the Department of Housing and Residential Life on the URI Kingston campus.
A leader of a group of black males calling themselves Brothers United in
Action in 1998, the younger Hardge helped advocate for social justice and
the end of racism on campus last year.
Another son Jonathan D. Hardge graduated in 1994. A sister, Bethany Elizabeth-Ann
Champlain Hardge, attends URI.
Marc credits URI President Carothers with coming up with the idea for
the sculpture. "I am touched that Dr. Carothers wants to honor my father
in such a profound way. He is to be applauded for this sensitivity and insight."
The unveiling of the sculpture is expected to be held in the late spring.
Contributions for the memorial work of art can be made to the URI Foundation
with a notation that the gift is given for this purpose and sent to 21 Davis
Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 02881-0810.
For More Information: Jan Sawyer, 401-874-2116