A businessman, lawyer, and the founder of both Hattiesburg and Gulfport, William Harris Hardy was born in Collirene, Lowndes County, Alabama, on 12 February 1837, the son of Robert William Hardy and Temperance L. Toney Hardy. After establishing Sylvarena School near Raleigh, in Smith County, Mississippi, William Harris Hardy began practicing law in Raleigh in 1858; two years later, he married Sallie Ann Johnson of Brandon, Mississippi, with whom he went on to have six children.
When Mississippi seceded in January 1861, Hardy raised a militia company, the Smith County Defenders, which became Company H of the 16th Mississippi Infantry, Army of Northern Virginia. He later served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. James Argyle Smith.
Hardy practiced law after the Civil War, built railroads in South Mississippi, and served the state as a legislator and circuit court judge. In 1872 Hardy served as grand master of the Grand Lodge of Mississippi, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons.
Following Sallie’s death in 1872, Hardy married Hattie Lott of Mobile, Alabama, in 1874. She bore him three children before she died in 1895. Hattie was the namesake for the city that Hardy founded in 1882 along the railroad he built from Meridian to New Orleans. Hattiesburg was to be the seat of a new county to be created out of Perry County: the Mississippi legislature voted to name the new county in Hardy’s honor, but Gov. Anselm McLaurin vetoed the measure, and the new county became Forrest County instead. In No Compromise with Principle, Hardy is also credited with naming Laurel, Mississippi.
In 1900 Hardy married Ida V. May, and they had three sons. Hardy died in 1917 in Gulfport, which he also founded. In May 1945 the USS William Harris Hardy, an eighteen-thousand-ton cargo vessel, was christened in Pascagoula.
- Robert G. Evans, The Sixteenth Mississippi Infantry: Civil War Letters and Reminiscences (2002)
- Toney A. Hardy and William Harris Hardy, No Compromise with Principle: The Epic Story of William Harris Hardy and the Mississippi He Loved (1946)
- William H. and Sallie J. Hardy Papers, McCain Library and Archives, University of Southern Mississippi
- Dunbar Rowland, ed., Biographical Sketches of Mississippians, vol. 3 of A History of Mississippi (1976)