Billy HARDMAN
1926 - 2013
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HARDMAN, Billy BILLY THOMPSON HARDMAN DAHLONEGA, GA - Billy Thompson Hardman, 87, the first pioneer in tourism for Georgia, the Southeast and the U.S., died October 18, 2013 in Gainesville, Georgia not far from his adopted hometown of Dahlonega. 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). "Bill Hardman has many legacies, but STS is one that continues to touch people every day and to strengthen the industry he came to love," said Bud Flora, retired senior vice president and former publisher of Southern Living magazine, speaking of the 1,000-member organization that promotes travel in a 12-state region. Hardman, the son of Inez Thompson Hardman and William Luke Hardman, was born June 5, 1926, in Colbert, Ga., served in the U.S. Merchant Marines in World War II and attended Piedmont College and Mercer University. In 1959, Gov. Ernest Vandiver appointed him Georgia's first tourism director. Hardman recalled in a 2002 newspaper interview that he told the governor he didn't know anything about tourism but that the governor asked him to stay for a couple of months. He stayed almost 12 years. Georgia was largely a pass-through state for Florida-bound vacationers then, but Hardman saw huge potential. 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. "There's no Bill Hardman Room in the World Congress Center, but he was the visionary," according to Georgia Public Service Commission Chairman Lauren "Bubba" McDonald Jr. in a 2002 newspaper article that announced Hardman's induction into the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau Hospitality Hall of Fame. 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. Professional development is a key component of STS, and Hardman helped create the STS Marketing College, which leads to Travel Marketing Professional (TMP) certification. STS Marketing College programs are at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega every summer, and more than 800 tourism professionals have earned TMP certification. "There are professionals throughout the tourism industry who are the beneficiaries of many programs and projects my father started. He was proud of that," said his son, William T. Hardman, who succeeded his father as president and CEO of STS. Hardman often credited the success of STS to his wife of 52 years, Dorothy ("I did all the talking, and she did all the work"). She died in 2000, and Hardman married Helen Fincher, also a Georgia tourism professional, in 2006. Survivors include wife, Helen Fincher Hardman, of Dahlonega; son, William T. Hardman and his wife Carol, of Roswell; his daughter, Mary Escoe and her husband Gary of Cumming; his sister, Margie Bramlett, of Winterville. six grandchildren; Bryan Hardman (Amelia), Jenny Hillman (Michael), Chris Hardman, Allison Bower (Craig), Melony Witt (Andy), Jordan Escoe (Audrey). And his stepson, Stuart Fincher (Myra), of Cleveland; step daughter, Sharon Fincher Lee (Bryan), of Cleveland; and, stepson Joel Fincher (Melissa), of Cleveland; nine step grandchildren; Jordan Fincher (Cassie), Luke Fincher, Dylan Fincher, Shelby Lee, Jacob Fincher, Sierra and Selena Williams, Carlton and Jessica Garrett. And 14 great grandchildren. Visitation will be held Monday, October 21, 6:00 to 9:00 pm at the Dahlonega Funeral Home, 20 Gibson Rd., Dahlonega, GA, 30533 and Tuesday, October 22, 10:00 am to 12:00 noon at the Dahlonega United Methodist Church. Dr. Don Harp will officiate the service which will be held Tuesday, October 22, 2:00 pm at the Dahlonega United Methodist Church. A reception will be held following the service at the Cottrell Circle C Ranch, 5:00 to 7:00 pm. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Dahlonega United Methodist Church Building Fund, P.O. Box 455, Dahlonega, GA, 30533. Condolences may be expressed on-line at www.dahlonegafuneralhome.com. Arrangements by Dahlonega Funeral Home, 20 Gibson Rd., Dahlonega, GA, 30533, 706-864-DOVE

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Published in Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Oct. 20, 2013.
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Memories & Condolences
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59 entries
October 14, 2019
I still miss Bill so much.
Helen Hardman
Spouse
October 13, 2019
Bill is greatly missed by many. He always had a smile and a kind word for me every time I seen him. He was a true southern gentleman.
Debra Pence
Friend
November 18, 2013
Bill--

I am so sorry to hear about your Dad's passing. He was a wonderful person who always had a smile on his face and a warm welcome. You and the family will be in my prayers.
David Sheatsley
October 28, 2013
As the days and weeks pass, and as you return to life's routine, may you continue to feel comforted by the love and support of family and friends.
V Austin
October 27, 2013
I have not been in contact with Bill in many years, but I will always thank my lucky stars for having known him.
Jim Hoover Atlanta
October 27, 2013
With such a positive attitude, faith, energy, leadership and a "can-do" approach to life, we should all be like Bill Hardman! Age is irrelevant. Bill was a great inspiration to so many of us! With special love and hugs to Helen and Bill Jr.
Bev Lightfoot
October 25, 2013
Please accept my belated, deepest sympathy for the loss of Mr. Hardman. To his beloved family and friends may the Lord bestow you with comfort and peace.
Shannon Deaton
October 25, 2013
Deepest sympathy to the family of Bill Hardman. As you reflect on cherished memories, rely on God's word for comfort and strength, especially during this time of loss. [Isaiah 12:2 and Romans 15:4]
Katherine Mills
October 25, 2013
Dear family. I was so sorry to hear of Bill's passing. I will be forever grateful for his getting me involved in the promotion of Georgia. Everyone who knew Bill loved him and he will surely be missed. Ed Spivia
Ed Spivia
October 25, 2013
May God be a refuge and strength for you in your time of need. I am so sorry for your loss.Please accept my condolences. (1Peter5:7)
C. G.
October 24, 2013
May the God of all comfort be with you and your family doing this time of sorrow.~
CP (2 Corinthians 1:3,4)
October 24, 2013
Bill and Burma
Bill was an extraordinary lifelong hero. What a man, friend, boss, father, husband, and genuine Christian he was. Bill lived in my hometown Warner Robins before becoming the Director of Tourism for Georgia. We started working together at Callaway Gardens during my year as Miss Georgia with Gov. Lester Maddox and the Outdoor Writers of America. Everyone absolutely fell in love with Bill, his enthusiasm, his visions, his true humility, and Bill's ability to see and bring out the best in everyone. He was so much fun to travel with! During my year Bill arranged for a gorgeous Southern float to ride during the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, CA, 10 fabulous days in Washington, DC for President Nixon's inaugural Parade and Ball, for me to sing with the US Air Force Band in Washington, a fabulous trip to Hawaii to entice the International Rotarians to attend their annual meeting in Atlanta the next year, a trip to Canada to appear on their national television to promote the amazing things being done on Savannah's River Street, and countless incredible appearances all over the state of Georgia. Bill did it GREAT or not at all. My family loved, Dorothy, Helen, and Bill, Jr. It is an outstanding compliment when a child admires his father so much he follows in their footsteps when making their life career choice. Bill was so proud of Bill, Jr. Helen and Bill visited with us in Florida a couple of years ago and as usual he was excited about helping another friend with a giant new project in Virginia. He was still going like he was in his mid 30's! This world and especially Georgia are better places because the Lord loaned Bill to us for a while. Bill is probably helping organize a “Welcome Center” in heaven… Oh how we loved him. Helen and Bill, Jr. you are in our thoughts and prayers.
Burma Davis Posey
October 24, 2013
My deepest sympathy for your loss. May the God of comfort be with you at this most difficult time. Isaiah 61:2
October 24, 2013
As the days and weeks pass, and as you return to life's routine, may you continue to feel comforted by the love and support of family and friends.
G. Freeman
October 24, 2013
My prayers are with the entire family during this sad time. May the God of Comfort sustain you.
G Winfrey
October 23, 2013
To Helen, Bill and family, my heartfelt sympathies for your loss, please know that I am praying for you all during this difficult time, and may the peace that comes from the memories of love shared comfort you today, tomorrow and always.
Joanne S
October 23, 2013
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Hardman through my workplace. He was an absolute joy to speak to. What a sad loss for us here on earth but I can guarantee, he is already moving and shaking with our Lord and Savior. My deepest sympathies for you the family. Please find comfort in the fact that he is now in the presence of the Almighty. May God bless you all.
Chris Maner
October 23, 2013
Bill had a special place in our hearts. We are so sorry for such a huge loss...he was such a blessing to everyone he knew.
The Henderson's
October 22, 2013
May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.
Rev. 21:4 KJ
October 22, 2013
May the God of all comfort be with you and your family doing this time of sorrow.~
CP (2 Corinthians 1:3,4)
October 22, 2013
Please accept my sincerest condolences. I have had the pleasure of working on several efforts with Bill and was amazed at the widespread respect he had earned and his energy level he bought to any venture. He was my first call when I planned to be in Dahlonega and he always seemed to have unlimited time for me. As I am sure you are, I will miss his company and cheer every time I approach Crown Mountain.
Lee Duncan
October 22, 2013
We regret hearing about your loss you have my condolences, may the family support each other with love in the days ahead,May you have peace, Php 4:7
Howard
October 22, 2013
Bill,
We are sorry for your loss.
~ The Demby's
October 22, 2013
Helen and family,
May the peace of God surround you.
Our prayers are with the family
Gary & Vivian Medlin
October 22, 2013
Please accept my deepest sympathies.
Rev. 21:3, 4 ~ Kim
October 22, 2013
Bill
I am so sorry to hear about your father and also Carol's mother. Julie & I will keep your family in our prayers.
Sanford Thompson
Sanford Thompson
October 22, 2013
To the Hardman Family;
My deepest sympathy and prayers go out to you. Bill was one of the nicest and most humble gentlemen I've ever encountered. We shared some wonderful and humorous moments at the STS events. I also enjoyed being his advertising representative at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for many years. He'll truly be missed. RIP, Bill.
Yolanda Turmer
October 22, 2013
I was so sorry hear about Bill. He always brought Georgia home to me in D.C., when he had tourism events on the National Mall. A kind and wonderful person and a privilege to know.
Sandra Alley
October 22, 2013
My condolences to the Hardman family. May God grant you Peace during this difficult time. (Rom . 15:33
J W
October 22, 2013
I had the pleasure of working with bill and just adored him. my sympathies to all of you for your loss. a wonderful, lovely man. His
boundless energy was thrilling to be around.
Charlene Fisch
October 22, 2013
My condolences to Mr Hardman family, may God spirit strength you at this very difficult time.
Reed
October 21, 2013
Sorry to hear of the passing of Mr. Bill . He was a great man and a wonderful friend. I enjoyed working with Mr. Bill for almost 20 years at the Camping and RV show in Atlanta. My family and I got to know him and his family very well and became close friends with them all. God Bless your family and we will keep your family in our prayers.
Waymon Weems
October 21, 2013
May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.
Eg
October 21, 2013
May God bless you during this time of grief.
RP
October 21, 2013
Yes, we have indeed lost a great leader, family member, and friend; but mostly, we thank God that we had him --even if just for a while. What an inspiration! What a creative thinker! What an enthusiastic, loving husband/father/man! We've all been enriched by his spirit and smile. Now, we honor him by sharing these and following his loving way. I thank God I was blessed to have known him. Judith Crawford Gavrin
Judith Crawford Gavrin
October 21, 2013
So sorry for your loss.
Ted and Jane Childs
October 21, 2013
True Ambassador for the State of Georgia.
The father of Georgia Tourism.

Prayers and condolences to the family.
Shirley Bowles
October 21, 2013
Extending our sincerest sympathy to the family at this time of sorrow
Don Robbins & Staff
October 21, 2013
I have only known Bill Hardman and his family for the last 27 years. During that time I found him to be a unique, inspirational leader who epitomized not only the "Horatio Alger" story but was a true gentleman who cared deeply about his family, his friends, his community and the travel industry. He has been a great role model to me and countless others who benefited from his friendship and wisdom. My wife and I will miss his good humor, sound advice and warm companionship. Our thoughts and prayers are with Helen, Bill Jr. and the rest of the family.
Randy Garfield
October 21, 2013
I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Hardman through his Son, who is my neighbor. It didn't take long to realize what an inpirational person he was. I have seen few people who have as much energy as Bill, regardless of their age. I know his son had trouble keeping up with him. I have no doubt he is already promoting travel to heaven. Peace be with you and your family
Dave Chastain
October 21, 2013
Our family was so sorry to hear about Bill. He was such a special person and a treasure to DUMC and the town of Dahlonega. Helen and the rest of the Hardman family will be held closely in our prayers.
Margaret Poitevint
October 21, 2013
Bill will be sorely missed by all who were lucky enough to know him. He was a giant in the tourism industry, a friend to everyone he met and a mentor to many of us. His legacy will remain with us always. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family in this time of loss.
Fay Tripp
October 21, 2013
Georgia tourism has lost a great leader and friend. Our prayers are with the entire Hardman family.
bob cowhig
October 21, 2013
I love you so much, Papa! This world will not be the same without you. You have left a very deep void and you will be missed! xoxox
Allison Bower
October 20, 2013
May God welcome you to the land where joys shall never end as your soul entered the pearly gates of Heaven the angels began to sing!
I will never forget the first time I met Bill Hardman as his jolly smile reflected back at me in the mirror we began to talk... Bill would begin to share a story that would always lift you up and inspire you which fueled your soul evan more. Bill had a gift with people and loved life while sharing such joy in his heart.

When Bill walked into a room he filled it with energy that lifted the spirits of all those around him. We will miss you Bill Hardman and your endless energy that gave use such a daily burst to continue our days and weeks you created a magical experience for all those that were blessed to know you... Thank You for the gift of time you gave of yourself to us all.. May God bless you with eternal life we will see again.
Karen Covington
October 20, 2013
May the Balm of Gilead bring you comfort during this time.
Brad and Kelley Roberts
October 20, 2013
Stan Sudler
October 20, 2013
To Helen & the Hardman family, may our Lord comfort & keep you strong during this most difficult time. Our deepest condolences.
Jack & Aminda Cihlar
October 20, 2013
Bill Hardman was my idea of the perfect "Southern Gentleman".

May God wrap His comforting arms around Bill's family at this difficult time.
Carol & Billy Ross
October 20, 2013
I first meet Bill when building Forrest Hills Mountain Resort and a finer man I have yet to meet.Bill was a very strong promoter for me and the entire area. Bill will be missed by many-May he rest in peace
Frank Kraft
October 20, 2013
Bill was a treasured gift to all who knew him. He taught us all how to live with joy, appreciation and kindness. The world is so much smaller without our beloved, Mr. Bill.
Joy Kramer
October 20, 2013
To the Hardman family, May your friends and love ones carry you through your grief.
Steve Katona
October 20, 2013
Dear Bill Jr and Family, My sincere condolences on the passing of your beloved father. His legacy is one that will keep his memory alive for generations.
Dave Pavesic
October 20, 2013
I met Bill Hardman in the early 1960's and I thought I would never meet another person as dedicated to promoting Georgia through tourism as Bill. I never did. Bill was a wonderful guy and a friend to all who knew him. He will be missed. Deepest sympathy to the Hardman Family.
Peter Banks
October 19, 2013
Bill was a kind and caring man. He will be sadly missed. Love and prayers to his family and friends.
Debbie Pence
October 19, 2013
Dahlonega has lost a great friend and neighbor. I am personally grateful to have known Bill for only a few short years. He was a great inspiration and always enthusiastic when speaking about the beauty of our area. You will be missed but never forgotten. God Bless the Hardman / Fincher family.
Chris Worick
October 19, 2013
One of finest men I have ever known. My family has been blessed to have known Bill.
Gary Carlisle
October 19, 2013
Bill Hardman was a wonderful and inspirational man. I am so grateful and honored to have been his employee. God Bless You Hardman Family, our prayers are with you.
Donna Richardson
October 19, 2013
So sorry for your loss. Bill was a lovely man and we all loved him so much.
Barbara Katona
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