Former UNC Chancellor Paul Hardin dies at 86

Paul Hardin served as chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1988 to 1995.
Paul Hardin served as chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1988 to 1995.

Former UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Paul Hardin III died at his home in Chapel Hill on Saturday. He was 86 and had battled Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Hardin presided over the university from 1988 until he stepped down in 1995, leading the school through its bicentennial year.

Paul Hardin is sworn in as the seventh Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1988. Will Owens UNC-Chapel Hill

“Chancellor Paul Hardin was a visionary leader who is remembered in North Carolina and across our nation for his dedication to promoting the life-changing impact and benefits of higher education,” Chancellor Carol L. Folt said in a statement.

Hardin was known as a civil rights advocate who pushed to integrate public facilities in Durham in the 1960s. He is also credited with doubling the number of minority members on the UNC faculty.

During his tenure as chancellor, Hardin established the Employee Forum, giving a greater voice to UNC’s nonacademic staff, according to the university.

“Paul was warm and gracious and remained very involved with Carolina after his retirement. He will be greatly missed,” Folt stated.

Former Gov. Jim Hunt, who gave the North Carolina Public Service Award to Hardin in 1995, called the former chancellor a “visionary with a tenacious streak,” crediting his faith and determination with much of the university’s progress during his tenure.

President Bill Clinton with UNC Chancellor Paul Hardin during the University of North Carolina Bicentennial celebration October 12, 1993. Dan Sears UNC-Chapel Hill

Hardin presided over Carolina’s Bicentennial Observance in October 1993, where he conferred an honorary degree on then-President Bill Clinton at Kenan Stadium.

In an oral history, Hardin said, “I had the privilege of becoming a sentimental, outspoken supporter, an awestruck admirer and an advocate for this University.”

Hardin, who many say considered himself a progressive liberal, faced controversy in 1992 when he refused to create a freestanding Black Cultural Center. Students responded to the decision with protests, according to the Carolina Alumni Review, bringing film producer Spike Lee and the Rev. Jesse Jackson to the university to support the demonstrations.

A year later, Hardin and a planning committee came up with a compromise for a freestanding Black Cultural Center that would also serve as a classroom building, according to the Review. The Stone Center opened in 2004 in Coker Woods.

Hardin called the controversy the “greatest personal anguish” he experienced in his career.

Hardin served as a member of UNC’s law school faculty from 1995 until his death.

Hardin Hall, a residence hall built in 2007, is named in his honor.

According to the remembrance in the Review, Hardin made his diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS, public during a speech in 2014.

Hardin was born on June 11, 1931, in Charlotte, to Paul Hardin Jr., a Methodist minister and bishop, and Dorothy Reel Hardin, according to the university.

Paul Hardin III graduated from Duke University in 1952 and later from Duke’s law school.

Hardin served in the U.S. Army’s counterintelligence unit before leaving the military for a career in law. He taught law at Duke for a decade.

He was president at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., from 1968 to 1972, Southern Methodist University in Dallas from 1972 to 1974, and Drew University in New Jersey from 1974 to 1988 before returning to North Carolina. Hardin took up the chancellor’s post at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1988.

Hardin is survived by his wife of 63 years, Barbara Russell Hardin, three children, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

A memorial service for Hardin will be held at the University United Methodist Church in Chapel Hill at 3 p.m. Saturday, July 8.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation to The Robert and Martha Gillikin Library Fund at the UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries in honor of Paul and Barbara Hardin, the Duke University ALS Clinic, the Paul Hardin Scholarship Fund at the Duke Law School or the Hardin-Russell Endowment Fund at Lake Junaluska Assembly.