CAROLINA ALUMNI REVIEW 43
wrote to King shortly after and told him
that he believed King was right and that his
words had “had a profound influence on
our family.” The two had a short conversation about it when he introduced himself
to the civil rights leader during a chance
meeting in 1967.
That same year, Hardin’s bid for mayor
of Durham, where he was active in civil
rights issues, was unsuccessful in part due
to his liberal views on race relations —
views for which he was chastised on-air by
then-commentator Jesse Helms.
In the BCC battle almost three decades
later, the chancellor worried that a freestanding center would promote separatism.
But student supporters of a dedicated
building believed he was degrading the
importance of black culture on campus and
Hardin’s statement, “We want a forum,
not a fortress,” galvanized proponents for
a freestanding center to lead the largest
demonstration movement on campus since
Vietnam. Sixteen people were arrested after
marching into the chancellor’s office in
April 1993. The controversy drew national
attention from the media as filmmaker
Spike Lee and the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson visited campus to lend their support.
News cameras ably captured placards
that read “Hardin’s Plantation” but not the
truth that Hardin felt inside — that he was
in a lose-lose situation. BCC supporters saw
him as against the center’s existence, while
conservative opponents of a BCC called
him a champion.
“What’s broken my heart is that I’ve
been portrayed as a ’60s liberal who
On paper, Hardin was an unlikely choice to become
Carolina’s seventh chancellor. He was a 1952 Phi Beta Kappa
graduate of Duke University, where he was on the golf team,
earned a law degree and served on the law school faculty for 10 years.
When told of Chapel Hill’s interest in him, Hardin,
then the president of Drew University in New Jersey, was incredulous.
He twice turned down the offer to apply,
believing it a doomed proposition.
ONLINE: Hardin spoke in 2014 about his
experience with ALS: bit.ly/Hardin-2014-
Russ Hardin’s eulogy of his father: bit.ly/
The Review’s profile of Hardin when he
stepped down as chancellor in 1995: bit.ly/
The Review’s complete “History of the
Chancellorship” series: bit.ly/chancellorship