Department of Mathematical Sciences

History of Mathematical Sciences at Clemson University

John Charles Harden, Jr


John Charles Harden, Jr. was born in Poplarville, Mississippi on December 30, 1924. His father, John Charles Harden, Sr., was a principal in the Mississippi public school system, serving both in Poplarville and in Hub, Mississippi, and later he was a mathematics professor at Pearl River Junior College, which is now Pearl River Community College in Poplarville.

Charles Jr. graduated from Hub High School in June of 1941, and at the age of 16, enrolled in Pearl River Junior College. When Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941, Charlie was was not old enough to join the arm services so he continued his studies at Pearl River Junior College. However, after two years, he took leave from his college studies and joined the U.S. Army Air Force on June 29, 1943. Three years later, he was honorably discharged from the Army Air Force as a First Lieutenant. During his time in service to our country, he saw duty in India and the Marianas Islands (Tinian) as well as in the states. He was a navigator and radar expert on WW II bombers, and he was one of our soldiers who flew the "Hump" from India over to Japan. For his part as a member of "our greatest generation", he was decorated with an Army Air Medal--the one-oak-leak cluster.

After the war was over, Charlie remained in the Army Air Force for another year, and during this time he was able to attend classes at Mississippi State College in Starkville. After his discharge, he enrolled at Mississippi College in Clinton from which he received his BS degree in Mathematics in 1947. Charlie then went to the University of Tennessee where he obtained his MA degree in Mathematics in 1949.

He was subsequently hired by Clemson and came here as an instructor in September 1949. Charlie taught in the math department for nearly 53 years. This 53-year service time breaks the record of 52 years of mathematics teaching previously held by Samuel Maner Martin. Clemson's first graduating class was in 1896, and Samuel Maner Martin started teaching at Clemson in 1898, so he and John Charles Harden, Jr. together have accounted for all but two or three of the graduating classes of Clemson University. Charlie was hired by Dr. Sheldon who had replaced Samuel Maner Martin as chair a year earlier.

Early in his career at Clemson Charlie made frequent visits back to Poplarville and, through those visits and letter writing, he became much better acquainted with the Meredith Howse, who had become a registered nurse. The two were married at Meredith's home on July 8, 1951.

Charlie and Meredith had two sons. John Charles Harden, III was born on March 6, 1955 and Harold Brian Harden was born on December 26, 1958. Meredith passed away on August 30, 1988 after a long battle with cancer.

Charlie was promoted to Assistant Professor in 1952 and a year later to Associate Professor. Throughout the years he served the department in many capacities including that of Assistant to the Head, schedule maker, and, as indication of his service as well as his kindness, Charlie was almost the "official substitute" for any faculty member who had to miss a class. I'm sure he substituted hundreds of times over his years and likely holds Clemson University's all-time substitution record.

Charlie was always a big sports fan and in fact was a good athlete who boxed while in high school and played some basketball in college. As a Clemson professor, he was the second basemen of the famous Clemson Mathematics Department softball team.

In addition to teaching early in his career he was away for one or two summers in 1958 and/or 1959, when he worked for Hughes Aircraft in California using the radar expertise he had learned during the war to train folks how to track satellites with radar.

It is estimated that Charlie taught around 20,000 students during his career at Clemson. He was their friend and their teacher and they loved him for it. There are many testimonials of the students from his classes that Charlie was an excellent, well-respected, and well-loved professor.

Everyone who has been in the department for several years knows about Charlie's infinite patience in making out the class schedules and about his ability to make everyone happy with the schedule he gave them, and about his quality as a professor and his care and concern for his students.

One of duties that Charlie assumed was to handle drop/adds for the students. This meant there were long lines which snaked through the halls of Martin Hall when we had to do it all by hand. He would sit there at a desk all day long while maintaining extreme patience and treating every student with care, concern and the best accommodation he could find.

The administrative team of the department worked closely with Charlie and recalls how much physical work he did for the department. For example, at the beginning of each semester, Charlie would make sure that the correct number of chairs was in each classroom. Often he made trips to the "surplus furniture depot" either disposing of a load of unwanted furniture from the department or bringing back furniture that the department could use. Further, he kept a toolbox in his office and frequently made small repairs himself. Also, if someone needed a screwdriver, hammer, pliers, or even an electric drill, they could always go to Charlie for it.

John Charles Harden continued the tradition of a caring teacher who loved the University and did more than his part for the Mathematical Sciences Department.

Harden2 President Lennon recognizes Charles Harden for 43 years service (circa 1993).

(This material was adapted from the Eulogy given by Joel Brawley at the memorial service for John Charles Harden, Jr.)

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