Hardy Poindexter Graham Sr. met his Lord and Savior on March 24, 2021. Hardy lived a full life in Meridian, Miss., and made meaningful connections around the world due to his military service, business interests and love of travel.
Hardy was born in Meridian, Miss., on May 17, 1942, to Hardy Moore Graham and Cora Lee Poindexter Graham. His family moved to Union City during his childhood in order for his parents to operate Union City Coca-Cola Bottling, and he graduated from Union City High School in 1960.
He continued his education at his beloved alma mater, the University of Mississippi. Hardy obtained his bachelor of arts in 1964, and his master of arts in 1965, while working as a graduate assistant teaching history.
As an Ole Miss student, Hardy was a member of the basketball team and was awarded the Taylor Medal in history, the history department’s highest academic honor.
Hardy was commissioned by the United States Navy in 1964, and served his country upon graduation from Ole Miss from 1965-1968. He was stationed on U.S.S. Sumner and at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
He achieved the rank of lieutenant and served as a naval instructor. Hardy commuted to law school at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., and obtained his juris doctor in 1970, following in his father’s footsteps as an attorney. He was a member of the American Bar Association and the Mississippi Bar Association.
Hardy’s education and life experiences served him well as he turned his attention to business development in Meridian and Union City. Hardy’s business accomplishments included many senior leadership roles and ownership at Union City Coca-Cola, Meridian Coca-Cola Bottling Co., Northwood East Inc., Gulf States Canners Inc. and Bonita Properties Inc.
Hardy was a “Coca-Cola Man” through and through. He returned to Meridian to work at Meridian Coca-Cola in 1970, became president in 1979 and served as chairman of the board from 1986 until his death. He was named Mississippi Bottler of the Year in 1994.
He also served in leadership of the MS Soft Drink Association, Mainstream Coca-Cola Bottlers, Merchant & Farmers National Bank, Deposit Guaranty National Bank and Riley Memorial Hospital. He was a recipient of the Hartley D. Peavey Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence.
In addition to his work ethic, Hardy had a strong sense of civic duty. His community involvement included Rotary Club, the Meridian City Planning Commission, Boy Scouts, 4-H Advisory Council, State Games of Mississippi founder, Boys & Girls Club of Meridian, Meridian Museum of Art, Lauren Rogers Museum of Art in Laurel and Meridian Lauderdale County Partnership. He was a supporter of the Riley Center for the Performing Arts, the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center and the Mississippi Children’s Museum in Meridian.
Desiring others to receive the gift of education, Hardy was a patron of several colleges and universities, including the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University-Meridian Campus and Meridian Community College. He served on the board of directors of Meridian Community College Foundation, where he ultimately acted as vice president and president.
He was a member of the University of Mississippi Foundation Board of Directors and the Chancellor’s Trust. The academic buildings and rooms around the state honoring Hardy and his family are a testament to his devotion to education and service. His significant investments in these institutions was as rewarding for Hardy as it is for the recipients. Hardy’s work through Bonita Properties also resulted in the commercial development of much of Meridian, including Bonita Lakes Mall.
Hardy’s greatest hobbies in life were travel and wine collecting. Whether he was tasting a fine Burgundy wine at a friend’s home in France or cruising the Nile River in Egypt, Hardy always packed his sense of adventure and respect for other cultures. His wife, family and friends fondly remember all of their expeditions together.
Hardy was preceded in death by his parents and two infant children, Judith Lee Graham and Richard Williams Graham. Hardy is survived by his loving wife, Dorothy Langhofer “Dottye” Graham. He leaves his two devoted children, Hardy P. Graham Jr. (Monica) and Lee Ann Graham Keeton (Lucky), along with grandchildren, Lilli and Lauren Graham and Graham and Liam Morphis; brother, Newell Graham (Bettie); nephew, Richard Graham (Anna); stepchildren, Corban Gunn (Hoover), Drew Gunn (Kristen) and Paul Gunn (Ashley); and stepgrandchildren, Vonne and William Gunn and Luke, Bo and Wyatt Gunn. Hardy leaves a host of relatives and friends who feel his void.
Hardy was a communicant of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Meridian, where his family has deep ties. His life on earth and everlasting life was celebrated Saturday, March 27, at noon, at St. Paul’s. Committal of ashes in the church columbarium followed.
Visitation was held from 10 a,m.-noon in the parish hall. The church required that masks be worn and required capacity limitations for social distancing.
The family wishes to thank the physicians and staff of Anderson Regional Medical Center and the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital for their unwavering care of Hardy. The family suggests charitable donations in lieu of flowers to Care Lodge, Meridian Community College Foundation or St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
Family and friends may sign the online guestbook at robertbarhamffh.com.