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Leader respected for role in aiding inner-city areas

For 22 years, Archie Hardwick has spent his life helping the people of Miami's inner city.

He has seen the James E. Scott Community Association, the largest social service agency in Liberty City, grow from an annual budget of $50,000 to $7 million.

"Most of my time and energy has been spent on it, " he said.

Throughout the years, Hardwick gained the respect of Miami's powerful Non-Group, the community's mostly white business elite.

"Archie Hardwick probably does more with less than anybody else here, " Atico Financial Corp. Chairman William Allen, then chairman of JESCA's board of directors, said last year. "But the inner city is not a fashionable concern among private interests these days."

Hardwick, JESCA's president, today faces the toughest challenge of his long career: allegations of financial irregularity at his agency.

"Much needs to be done, and we have made mistakes, " Hardwick said. "I am totally accountable for those errors."

He says that, as JESCA's president, he has spent much of his own money helping the community. But he could not produce documents to support his expenses.

"When you give a homeless person money, do they give you a receipt?" he asked.

He says he has no personal checkbook.

"I find it difficult talking about how much I have given to JESCA and this community, but under the circumstance it is of utmost importance that you clearly understand that I am a giver (maybe too much) not a taker, " he said in a letter to Miami Herald executives.

In the past, Miami Herald Publishers Dave Lawrence and Dick Capen have praised him in columns. "Few people care more about Miami's inner-city problems than Archie Hardwick, " Capen wrote in 1988.

Hardwick was raised by his father, a mechanic with a fourth-grade education who later became an interior decorator. His mother died when he was a boy.

"He was a good image, and I respected him, " Hardwick said of his father in an interview in 1981. "He was really good with figures. He could add them up as fast as a computer. He passed that on to me."

Hardwick earned a master's degree in social work from the University of Connecticut and had jobs in Los Angeles and the Midwest before settling in Miami in 1968.

He said he never intended to stay in the South.

"It took me two or three years of working intensely for almost 16 hours a day, six days a week, to really gain an understanding of the 'Southern mentality' and the devastating effect of the years of civil rights violations and institutional racism has had on the people who had lived here all of their lives, " he said.

"I decided to stay because I felt I could make a difference."

Now 56, he lives with his wife, Carolyn, in Lauderhill in Broward County. He has a daughter who lives in New York.

"I don't talk about my personal life, " Hardwick said.

Publicly, he is known as someone with the ability to get out the vote in Miami's black communities. For years, he was a force in the Democratic party.

In 1980, in the aftermath of Miami's riots, Hardwick was one of the local leaders who met with then-President Jimmy Carter in a closed-door session to discuss federal aid for the devastated inner city. He had previously met with Carter in the White House.

"I've never known politics without Archie Hardwick, " said Dade political consultant Phil Hamersmith. "He's been involved in a lot of campaigns over the years, dozens, if not hundreds of them."

"I've seen my role, specifically, to develop leadership, " Hardwick said. "I've pushed to get programs and services into this area."

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