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Sculpture of the Rev. Arthur L. Hardge.

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Sculptor Arnold Prince

Sculpture of civil rights leader unveiled

The cloth coverings were lifted last month, unveiling the impressive bronze sculpture of the Rev. Arthur L. Hardge, a noted civil rights leader who helped improve the lives and prospects of minorities living in Rhode Island.

The 6-foot artistic waist-length interpretation of Hardge, dressed in cleric clothes and holding a Bible, sits on a pedestal on the plaza in front of the Multicultural Center at the University of Rhode Island. The sculpture was cast at the Paul King Foundry in Johnston. Minority contractor Stan Cameron of Jain Corporation completed the first phase of erecting the statue, the support base. The firm, New England Stone, LLC of North Kingstown, created the pedestal, which is made of granite.

URI President Robert L. Carothers dedicated the sculpture and authored the inscription of Hardge's life and legacy, which is engraved on a plaque on the pedestal.

The statue was designed and executed by Arnold Prince, a distinguished sculptor from Chaplin, Conn. The project was overseen by Robert Dilworth, a faculty member in the URI Art Department.

"The Rev.," as Hardge was affectionately known, was the first director of URI's Special Programs for Talent Development. He died of heart disease in 1983.

The 31-year-old recruitment and retention program for disadvantaged students and students of color has become the pride of the University. The program began with 13 students, now enrolls 600, and boasts more than 1,000 alumni.

Carothers, who heads a private $35,000 fundraising effort for the sculpture and its landscaped surrounding, donated the first $1,000 to the fund. Gifts to support the project are still sought. Anyone wishing to contribute may send their checks to the Hardge Memorial, payable to the URI Foundation, 21 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, R.I. 02881-0810.

The inscription on the Hardge pedestal, written by Carothers, reads:

"This Memorial honors the life and work of the Reverend Arthur L. Hardge, born in 1927, a man who led by serving his brothers and sisters until his death in 1983. He was the child of many cultures: Africa, Europe and those first Americans who lived on this land. The great grandson of a man who had his fingers lopped off for teaching and preaching, Arthur Hardge had a passion for learning that could not be so easily quelled. Rev. Hardge was a minister from the age of seventeen. He was a leader of the Civil Rights Movement, jailed in Florida for refusing to leave a restaurant reserved for whites and later becoming the first black man in Rhode Island to head a state agency, creating jobs and hope for those who had little of either. Building on a program established by Harold Langlois, and assisted by Leo DiMaio, Rev. Hardge later founded the Special Programs for Talent Development at the University of Rhode Island, in which "the Rev and Mr. D" changed the lives of thousands of young men and women. From those whom others gave no chance to succeed, Rev. Hardge built a new generation of doctors and lawyers, teachers and nurses, leaders of business and government, music and theater-the pride of this University. It was, he liked to say, "always a pleasure." In his name, we dedicate ourselves to justice, equality and opportunity for all. Dedicated September 12, 2000."

After the ceremony, the assemblage walked to Edwards Auditorium to hear Martin Luther King's widow, civil rights activist Coretta Scott King, deliver URI's annual Convocation address which inaugurated a semester-long Honors Colloquium on nonviolence.

By Jan Sawyer

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