Monday, October 21, 2013

Farewell to Bill Hardman, Tourism Pioneer

The Russell Library staff was sad to learn of the passing of Bill Hardman, interviewed for our Reflections on Georgia Politics oral history series just a few month ago. The following text is adapted from his obituary.

Hardman was Georgia’s first tourism director, the first president of the Southern Travel Directors’ Council (now Travel South USA), chairman of the Travel Industry Association of America (now U.S. Travel Association), a key player in development of the Georgia World Congress Center and the architect of the Southeast Tourism Society (STS).

Born June 5, 1926, in Colbert, Ga., he served in the U.S. Merchant Marines in World War II and attended Piedmont College and Mercer University. In 1959, Georgia Governor Ernest Vandiver appointed him as the state's first tourism director.

When Hardman took on the position Georgia was largely a pass-through state for Florida-bound vacationers then. During his tenure as state tourism director, he built the state’s first eight welcome centers, launched a tourism advertising program, conducted the nation’s first Governor’s Conference on Tourism and promoted Georgia throughout the U.S. and in Canada and Europe. He left state government in 1970 and founded Hardman Productions, which conducted travel and RV trade shows and other events.

Hardman was hired in the early 1970s to lobby the Georgia legislature to appropriate $30 million to build the Georgia World Congress Center and to place it in Atlanta. Many legislators wanted the facility in other cities. Hardman’s service on the national stage included being chairman of the Travel Association of America, now U.S. Travel Association, and having the longest tenure on that association’s board of any member, more than 40 years. In 1983, Hardman was at the center of creation of the Southeast Tourism Society, which started with seven states and has grown to 12.

Our thoughts go out to members of Bill Hardman's family and friends. The Russell Library staff feels lucky to have met Mr. Hardman and learn about his career in Georgia tourism.

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