Jabez Sanford "Jabie" Hardin Jr. has not lived in Columbia County for decades, but he hasn't forgotten his roots.
Philanthropist and Columbia County native Jabez Sanford "Jabie" Hardin Jr. sits near a rendering of the new library and performing arts theater that he was presented with at a ceremony Friday in honor of a $500,000 donation he made to the library's construction in his father's memory.
Photo by Valerie Rowell
In fact, Hardin is trying to enhance the lives of the families still living here through a large donation to the county's new library and performing arts center in honor of his father, Jabez Sanford Hardin, who taught him to be generous and replenish all that supported him, including his native community.
"If you take something away from the community or the soil, you always put something back," Hardin said at a ceremony in his honor May 21.
County commissioners, library board members and other interested citizens gathered to thank Hardin, a Columbia County native who now lives in Memphis, Tenn., for his $500,000 donation for the new library. They also presented him with a framed artistic rendering of what the completed library will look like.
"I am proud to be a citizen from Columbia County," said Hardin, 93. "I hold it dear to my heart."
Hardin founded Hardin Distributing Co., a food distribution company, with his wife, Helen, in 1936.
In 1972, the couple merged their successful business with SYSCO Corp., the nation's largest food distribution conglomerate. Hardin's-SYSCO earned the largest portion of SYSCO Corp.'s $26 billion in sales in 2003.
It was not the merger that earned the Hardin a fortune, but the trading of its stocks and bonds, Hardin said.
The Hardins have spread their philanthropic efforts to organizations around the Southeast, including nearly $4 million to the Memphis Zoo and starting the Jabez Sanford Hardin Scholarship Fund in Columbia County in 1986.
Annually, the scholarship awards $40,000 to $42,000 to Columbia County students, said Hardin nephew, Church Hardin, who oversees the scholarship. A student from each of the county's four public high schools and another chosen at large from the county is awarded a $2,000 scholarship that can be renewed each of their four years in college, said Chuck, who lives in the county.
"(We donate to) only worthy institutions," Mr. Hardin said. "Worthy organizations that will continue serving from now until eternity."
Hardin made the large donation to the library in honor of his father, who served 28 years as Columbia County's Board of Education superintendent.
According to Dr. Jeff Hardin, chairman of the Columbia County Library System Board of Trustees who is not related to Jabie Hardin, said the 50,000-square-foot library and 300-seat performing arts center should be completed in the fall of 2005.
And Hardin's donation, which has earned another $50,000 through investments, is being used to turn the originally planned flat multipurpose meeting room into a real theater, said Marilyn Heuer, the county's project administrator.
"With (Hardin's) contribution, we turned it into a much bigger room with tiered seating, a stage, dressing rooms. It turned into a real performing arts center," Heuer said. "It really changed the focus of that facility."
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