Charles E. Richardson

From Bellview to Georgia Tech to the mayor’s office

I’ve got a secret that few people know and some will find it hard to believe. It’s a secret that’s hiding in plain sight — and admittedly, it may have been just a secret to me. Certainly it’s not a secret to everybody.

The honorable mayor of Augusta, Hardie Davis Jr., is the same Hardie Davis Jr. who was born in Macon and went to Minnie Butler Elementary School over in Bellview. When his father landed a job as a laborer at Plant Scherer, they moved to Forsyth and Junior continued his education at Hubbard Elementary and Mary Persons High School.

But in 1985, the family would move again, this time to Augusta. Davis senior took a job working at the Georgia Power nuclear plant, and the father may not have realized it at the time but that move set his son on his path to success. Apparently, moving to Augusta to work at the plant was offered to others at Scherer but they were too afraid of venturing out of their comfort zones, but the move proved something his father and mother, Delois, had always instilled in him: “You can do and be anything with God on your side.”

Somewhere in his path, he and friends decided they were going to go to Georgia Tech and become engineers. Hardie Jr.’s dream was to be one of the top 10 engineers in the country — and he was well on his way to doing that until something stepped in his path: God.

He started teaching Bible study on campus and became a youth pastor while still pursuing engineering. “I always had ministering in my spirit,” he told me during a recent interview. He became an associate pastor for three years and then he said, “The Lord spoke to me and told me it was time to start a church.” That was in December 1999. By May 2000 Abundant Life’s doors opened in Augusta. Along the way he earned his doctorate of ministry degree to add to his electrical engineering degree from Tech, and by August 2006 he left engineering and became the full-time pastor at Abundant Life.

You would think that after all of his success that he might slow down a bit. Didn’t happen. In March 2006, a Leadership Georgia meeting in the basement of the Governor’s Mansion, Hardie said these words out loud: “This could be my house.” And that began his road to the state Capitol, first as state representative for three years then state senator for five. But God stepped into his path again.

He told me the date was April 7, 2011, at 3:45 a.m., he couldn’t sleep, so he prayed and was writing when the Lord said to him, “You’re going to be the next mayor of Augusta.” Hardie’s response? “I ain’t doin’ that.”

July 13, the Lord spoke his destiny again. His response? “I ain’t doin’ that.” Then in November, a group from Leadership Augusta came to him and told him, “We know what you need to do next.”

In 2014, the mayor’s seat was open and there were five candidates in the race, including Davis. He won in a landslide with 76 percent of the vote, becoming only the second African-American mayor in the city’s history and the first under consolidation.

In his first two years in office, he’s worked hard to get everyone on the same page. Apparently, that’s been successful because the city has seen $245 million in investment since he’s been mayor.

That’s why it’s important to dream and dream big. He’s evidence of what can happen when two parents instill faith in their children and the love of education. A man who started his educational trek at Minnie Butler Elementary School in Macon, Georgia, is now the mayor of Augusta-Richmond County.

He comes back to this area often. His grandmother is still here as are cousins and an uncle, and later today (Sunday, Oct. 9) he will appear, along with Miss America 2016 Betty Cantrell and Fort Valley State University’s Concert Choir at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, 179 Mount Zion Church Road in Bolingbroke, where the Rev. Jonathan Lowder is pastor. It all starts at 4 p.m., and you better get there early. My pastor, the Rev. Tolan Morgan of Fellowship Bible Baptist Church in Warner Robins, will bring the word, and if I do say so myself, he’s off the chain.