April 2021

Faith and an invitation led former justice to GNO board

By Alyssa Blake

Communications Intern

Faith, dedication and determination are just a few words that can describe the life and career of Good News Outreach board member, Major Harding.

A man guided by his Christian faith and desire to help the community, Harding appreciated the efforts of Good News Outreach to help the community and accepted a board position after attending a board meeting on an invitation by Executive Director Donald Parks.

It’s a very comprehensive outreach ministry to mirror very many aspects of life in the community, which is something that I liked and hope to participate in more fully after the pandemic,” Harding said.  Born and raised in North Carolina, Harding received his bachelor degree of science and of law from Wake Forest University. He also attended the United States Army Infantry School and the United States Army Judge Advocate General School before beginning his career as a judge.

“I started in 1968 as a juvenile court judge and, after a couple of years, I was appointed to the circuit court in 1970 before moving to the bench in 1971, where I handled many judicial matters,” Harding said. “I was chief judge of the Fourth Judicial Circuit in Jacksonville from 1974 until 1977 and I continued to do various types of jurisprudence until I was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court.”

Harding’s desire to help the community since early in his career gave him access to opportunities.

“Shortly after moving to Jacksonville in the late ’60s while I was practicing law, I got involved with Young Life’s intercity ministry,” he said. There he ministered for many years to young intercity kids.

“It got me involved with the juvenile court,” Harding said. “The judge of the juvenile court was on the board of the ministry and he got appointed to the circuit bench. I was asked if I would like to be appointed to the juvenile court in his absence and that was in 1968.”

Harding has dedicated his time to many causes and organizations.

“I’ve been involved in all kinds of ministries and organizations to help the disadvantaged and the less represented throughout my career,” Harding said. “I served on the Supreme Court on the Gender Bias Study Commission and I’ve coordinated a program at the Supreme Court to honor the efforts of Virgil Hawkins. He was the first African American applicant for the University of Florida law school, but he was denied. I had the privilege of celebrating the anniversary of his efforts to attend law school while I was chief justice.”

His faith, he said, inspired his early efforts to help the community.

 

“I was born and raised in a Christian home,” Harding said.

  

Harding hopes for his involvement with Good News Outreach to continue to grow in upcoming years.

  

“I hope to be more involved now that I have just recently retired from my practice of law,” Harding said. “After leaving the Supreme Court, I went with the Ausley Law Firm. I have been with them for the last 18 years and I retired at the end of December 2020.

 

Harding would like to contribute his role as a mentor to Good News Outreach and learn more about the many services that are offered.

 

“I would like to primarily get involved Mercy House to minster to people coming out of prison,” Harding said. “I would also like to become more aware of everything that is happening at Maryland Oaks.”

Though faith has been a huge inspiration for Harding, he also says that his wife, Jane, is a big inspiration to him.   

 

I’ve been married for 62 years,” Harding said. “My wife’s been a very wonderful asset to me, not only personally but to my career. She’s been very supportive and a very special part of that.

While reflecting on his life and career names his time as a Florida Supreme Court Judge as one of his proudest moments.

 

“Being able to go to the Supreme Court of the state of Florida is a pinnacle event in a judge’s career. To have the opportunity to be service to the people as a trial judge, we got to see not only the lawyers but the people in trials and hearings,” Harding said. “I always felt that the decision-making process of a judge is a ministry and mission to do what is right and be of service to the people.”