Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
Opened February, 1974
Oral History Interview with
February 23, 1973
by Richard D. McKinzie
MCKINZIE: Mrs. Little, I wonder if you could begin by saying something about Ben Hardy's background, his schooling, how he happened to eventually come into Government?
LITTLE: Benjamin Hill Hardy, Jr., was the son of a weekly newspaper editor and publisher in Barnesville, Georgia, where he was born in 1906. His mother died when he was eight years old and he was reared largely by his father and two old maid aunts. Throughout high school at a local military school, Gordon Military Institute, he had the usual prep school courses and drills, and so forth, and was active as first captain and winner of the best drill company.
MCKINZIE: What was his father's occupation?
LITTLE: He was the editor of a paper.
He was editor and publisher of a Barnesville weekly newspaper. Ben was brought up, practically, in this newspaper office, because of his mother not being at home and the two old maid aunts. The father kept the son down in the newspaper plant, which wasn't very large, maybe five or six rooms -- something like that, But anyway, he learned to love the newspaper business at his father's knee, and knew from the beginning that that was what he wanted to do.
So, he wrote well, he expressed himself well, easily, and gently. He was a gentle person, a very kind man, a kind young fellow, some man!
MCKINZIE: Did you ever hear him say why he went to a military academy? Was it the best possible education one could get in that area at the time?
LITTLE: Oh yes, it was the local high school. And the town has a unique history of not having the ordinary high school. It had a military school that had a special grant for local students. I even went to it. I am a graduate of a military school.
So, Ben Hardy had that training and was active in everything that he could get into in this small town school. He attended the University of Georgia, receiving his BA in journalism and master of arts at the same time, in 1928, during the usual four-year period.
MCKINZIE: I take it he was a very good student.
LITTLE: Yes, but he also traveled in the summer, in Europe, so he had done that in addition to traveling. He was a very bright young man, and he was also Phi Beta Kappa. If you would care to see his college year book it will show you that he was president of practically everything he entered into. He was president of his class many times -- that sort of a man. During his summer vacations from college he toured Europe with friends, absorbing as much of the artistic and literary atmosphere as he could, and when he returned then he would write it, do some writing on that.
His last trip during the college years was a summer spent in England with his former roommate who was by now a Rhodes scholar, and they had a very wonderful, happy time. By the way, this chap's name is Thomas J. Hamilton
and he was the New York Times United Nations man for many years. I have not seen his name for 8 or 10 years, so he may have passed on, I don't know. But anyway, he was a very fine young man and Ben's closest friend.
After graduation at the university, he taught at the university one year, the first year English, and the next year he went to the military school, Gordon Military School, where he had had his high school training and taught English there for a year. Then he became a cub reporter on the Atlanta Journal in 1930, That was the year he and I were married.
MCKINZIE: What kinds of stories did they assign him at the Atlanta Journal?
LITTLE: The police beat was the first one, you know, and the same kind of stories that all cub reporters have, the lowest down on the totem poles. He enjoyed it thoroughly, he loved it, he learned a great deal about the seamy side of life that he had not seen too much.
At that time his father was injured in an automobile accident and he was needed to help out at the newspaper. So, we left Atlanta and went to Barnesville, and he ran
the newspaper for two years until his father recovered. Then he bought the weekly newspaper in Biloxi, Mississippi, which he turned into a daily and sold within a year afterwards because it wasn't making money and the depression years were getting harder and harder -- that was '33 and '34.
After losing his shirt in Biloxi he joined the Associated Press in Richmond, Virginia where he worked for three and a half years, and at the end of which he became a one-man bureau in Roanoke, Virginia, covering the state -- everything for the Associated Press -- the western half of the state.
MCKINZIE: Those were enjoyable years for you?
LITTLE: Oh, yes, they were very happy years, the children were small. We have a daughter, too, and she is married to a Ph.D. in geology and they live in Arlington Heights, Illinois, and they have three young sons, all of whom are Hardy's. They are very interesting children and, of course, Ben Hardy, our son, has four boys, so I have seven grandsons, and Ben Hardy has 7 grandsons.
MCKINZIE: Why did he decide to terminate his affiliation with the Associated Press, as a one-man bureau?
LITTLE: The war started and the New York office needed somebody capable of organizing a new press association for radio service and were asking all around, "Who has a man who can do this?" The Associated Press manager in Richmond said, "We have a man in the western part of the state that can do it," and they sent Ben to New York.
That was a fine year for us, but I don't care for New York particularly, living in New York, I like to go there, but I was very happy to come back to Virginia near Washington.
MCKINZIE: Were there any radio programs aired in this project?
LITTLE: Oh yes, they were getting it organized. I have a record that he made broadcasting news that I have never dared turn on since he was killed, but I think that someday I may turn it on, it was just too hard for me to do that.
His year in New York with the press association was terminated because he found it uncomfortable to work with a particular man. I think the man was blasphemous and swore constantly, and Ben didn't want to be in that atmosphere. So, he chose to look for another job and somebody wrote him a letter and asked him if he would be
interested in a State Department job, so he took it, and we came to Washington, to the Virginia suburbs.
MCKINZIE: So, it wasn't a matter of quitting a job completely without anyplace to go?
LITTLE: Oh no. Never. But he did that when we left Brazil, he had no fears. He was a very capable, competent man in many directions and he was not troubled by any thoughts of not having sufficient employment.
MCKINZIE: But then you moved back to Washington in 1943?
LITTLE: We moved back to Virginia, Arlington, across the river from Washington, it was in 1944 that the Inter-American Affairs office sent him to Brazil as press officer for their organization. His two years there were filled with wonderful unfoldments in the back country. He saw a great deal of Brazil's back country; the Indians, and the desert, and the Minas Gerais country, which is where the diamonds and the iron, all of the precious stones are mined in great abundance. We (the family) went back there and enjoyed that with him.
When the war was terminated, the State Department took over the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs Office and made it a branch under the State Department and offered him the job as press officer in the Embassy in Brazil. Because of our young children's education we preferred to return to America, and did, after he just resigned. And it was during a holiday in Uruguay and Argentina at the end of this tour that we had time on board ship, a freighter, in the harbor at Santos, Brazil to think.
MCICINZIE: The freighter was en route back to the United States after you spent a holiday in Uruguay and Argentina?
LITTLE: Yes, we were there a number of weeks and the ship was unloading and loading, but it came to Santos to pick up a large, a real load of A&P 8 o'clock coffee -- by the way, raw coffee is a very unpleasant smelling produce, do you know that? Very strong, very weird "perfume," if you want to call it perfume. But it was while we were waiting in the Santos harbor for the Communist-inspired strik