N. B. H. – A Biography of Nicholas Brodie Hardeman, James Marvin Powell & Mary Nelle Hardeman Powers
It is inspiring to read biographies of those who have fought to overcome obstacles, sacrificed their interest for noble causes, and have made significant contributions to Christianity and the world such as A. G. Freed and N. B. Hardeman. Freed-Hardeman University’s impact for good has been felt abroad. When I was pursuing a full-time evangelist work, I often heard statements to the effect that since I was from Freed-Hardeman College it was assumed I was also sound in the faith.
Nicholas Brodie Hardeman (NBH) was born on May 18, 1874 in the small town of Milledgeville, TN where his father was the town medical doctor. NBH began to study the field of medicine but quickly decided this was not his field of interest. Eventually he would enroll at Georgia Robertson College in Henderson, TN (this school met in the building known as Milan-Sitka which was razed in 2004.) He both taught and studied for his M. A. degree, which he obtained in 1899. On April 18, 1897, A. G. Freed was to preach at Enville, TN. He decided that he was unable to conduct a service so he sent N. B. Hardeman in his place. Brother Hardeman attempted to get out of the speaking, but ultimately agreed to go in brother Freed’s place. Then about six weeks later brother Freed sent brother Hardeman to start a gospel meeting in his place at Juno, TN stating he would be along by hopefully Monday. Hardeman began the meeting preaching day and night while eagerly waiting for brother Freed to arrive. Finally, Freed arrived on Thursday and decided brother Hardeman was doing so well that Freed insisted Hardeman finish the meeting he had started. So, brother Freed is to be largely credited for grooming N. B. Hardeman as preacher as well. Brother Hardeman states he “drifted into preaching” with “fatherly propulsion” from A. G. Freed. N. B. Hardeman would go on to deliver a series of sermons known as “Hardeman’s Tabernacle Sermons” , which were printed in two prominent papers in the State of Tennessee.
Nicholas Hardeman had several debates, two of which were printed—Boswell and Bogard. The story of his debates is very interesting reading. Brother Hardeman’s debate with Ira Boswell over the instrument stopped the boastful offense of the Christian Church in Tennessee. Perhaps a surprising fact about N. B. Hardeman was that he once led singing while his wife played the piano in church. The Hardemans and many of the Henderson church studied themselves out of the error of using instrumental music in worship. Indeed leading people out of digression was possible then and it is still possible now.
This biography provides a thorough view of this great man’s life and contributions to Freed-Hardeman University, the church, the community and abroad. It deals with the highs and lows of brother Hardeman’s career until 1964. (Brother Hardeman passed away in 1965.)
E. Claude Gardner was president at Freed-Hardeman College when I was a student there. I remember brother Gardner’s announcing the change of status of Freed-Hardeman College to University. He then made the following statement, which should serve as a reminder to our Christian College Presidents and Board of Directors that there are some things that should never be for sale. President Gardner stated, “Freed-Hardeman College has not always been the name of this institution. In 1908 to 1919 it was called National Teachers Normal Business College. Predecessor colleges dating back to 1869 had these names: Henderson Male & Female Institute, then Henderson Male & Female Masonic Institute, West Tennessee Christian College, and Georgia Robertson Christian College. The last name was given after Mr. Robertson made a gift of $5,000 to honor his daughter. The gentleman who works in acquiring funds for universities and colleges recently told me that he had three clients ready to give $50 million and one for $25 million with the understanding the name of the institution would be changed to honor the donor. In no wise would I entertain recommending to our board the change of a name away from honoring two great men, A. G. Freed and N. B. Hardeman, for any amount of money.”
Originally printed West Virginia Christian, Vol. 14, No. 5, May 2007, p. 6. Reprinted by permission.