PRINCETON — Anyone who met Howard “Bo” Hardiman knows how much pride he took in serving in the U.S. Army in the Korean War, and as Princeton Police Chief.
Hardiman, who passed away Sunday, served as a police officer in Princeton during the 1970s, and became the city's first African American police chief.
Friends said he took great pride in his police chief badge, which he wore from 1984 to 1996, retiring in 1997.
He was known for his tall stature, commanding voice, professionalism and walking a straight line as an officer.
But those who really knew Hardiman knew he was kind and enjoyed recreation sports like golf and softball.
Bob Loveless, former Princeton police officer, describes Hardiman as a trailblazer for becoming the first African American police chief in Princeton.
“He was the Jackie Robinson of the Princeton Police Department,” Loveless said.
Loveless said Hardiman had to suppress a lot of racial tension back then. “He couldn’t wear his feelings on his sleeve.”
Loveless remembers when he was a teen and Princeton High School won a basketball game and fans were ready to run onto the court, but once they saw Hardiman on the floor they ran back up.
“It was a real pleasure to serve with him and under him,” Loveless said. “He had a real insight, highly intelligent.”
Fun, but serious
W.W. George, former Princeton Police Chief, who knew Hardiman for 30 years, describes him as “the nicest man you’d ever meet,” but he was also serious.
“I looked up to him,” George said.
George said he met Hardiman after he was hired as an Indiana State Police Trooper in 1976.
George said he got to know Hardiman and they became great friends, playing golf and softball games together.
George said Hardiman didn’t like cold temperatures and after they played five holes, the temperature dropped. He told George: "Take me on back to the car." George explained that they didn’t have much further, and once they got to the clubhouse he got hot chocolate and waved goodbye to them.
George said Hardiman was fun to be around, but also very serious. “If he told you to do it, you'd better do it.”
A community pillar
Darryl Sollman describes Hardiman as a “man’s man,” who would stand beside someone if they were right, but if they were wrong he’d let them know.
Sollman said Hardiman wasn’t one to be messed with. Sollman remembers being in training with Hardiman and being put down and feeling his knee in his chest.
“Nobody messed with Bo, he just had a way of smoothing it out,” Sollman said. “With Bo you didn’t worry about anything.”
Sollman said Hardiman liked to drive, be involved with people and work the streets. “He was a people person.”
Sollman said at the Fraternal Order of Police convention, Hardiman was one of the most asked about. “This community lost one of its pillars,” Sollman said.
A powerful voice
Former Gibson County Sheriff George Ballard said he’s known Hardiman for more than four decades, when Ballard started as a part-time officer for the Princeton Police Department in 1973.
Ballard worked with Hardiman when he was a police officer and then as a police chief. He said the late Roger Emmert, former sheriff, influenced Hardiman to get into law enforcement.
“He’s a good guy to work with.”
Ballard said Hardiman was always supportive of officers and if there was ever a problem, he would take care of it. “He was very supportive of all law enforcement.”
Ballard said the memories he had with Hardiman include going to the police and sheriff departments annual training and they’d ride together and talk about everything.
“It was fun to hear about what he thought about different issues,” Ballard said.
Ballard said Hardiman had a voice that would get anyone’s attention. “He’s always had a very powerful voice, you always knew when he was around.”
Ballard said even when they both retired, he still kept in touch, attending his birthday party and still being around in the community.
“He’ll be missed by the community,” Ballard said.
Nick Michas, former Princeton police chief, said he got to know Hardiman when he was at the Gibson County Sheriff’s Office and Hardiman was police chief. The two worked together for 25 years.
“He was a man of few words, but he meant what he said,” Michas said.
Michas said Hardiman was very professional and they both gave each other advice.
Michas said he retired as sheriff, then a dispatcher and then became police chief, after Hardiman retired. “He was a hard act to follow”
Michas said he had “big shoes to fill” from someone who was passionate about law enforcement.
A humble servant
Rev. Floyd Edwards said he’s known Hardiman for 39 years and first met him at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Princeton where he previously pastored.
Edwards said the first time he met Hardiman he was dressed in his police uniform and they talked about working together and exchanged numbers.
“Everyone respected Bo,” he said.
Edwards describes Hardiman as a “gentle giant,”who was tall in stature, but would do anything to help anybody.
“I’ve never seen him angry, in 39 years,” Edwards said Hardiman had a way of controlling his temper and the atmosphere. “I was struck by that.”
Edwards said Hardiman was the only man in a house full of women, but he loved all five of his girls and his late wife Mary dearly.
He said they kept in touch and would travel to Bloomington to Hardiman’s youngest daughter’s wedding, and he officiated Hardiman’s daughter’s and granddaughter’s wedding.
“He was very faithful to God and his beliefs,” Edwards said.
Edwards will fulfill a 25-year-old promise and officiate Hardiman’s funeral along with Rev. Rodney Coffer Friday at noon at Colvin Funeral Home in Princeton. Visitation will be from 4-7 p.m. Thursday.
“I told him, I’d be honored to do his service.”