Harding Glass Founder Passes Away
February 15, 2012

by Sahely Mukerji, smukerji@glass.com

Wayne E. Harding Jr., founder of Harding Glass Industries (HGI), passed away yesterday morning at his home in Boulder, Colo. He was 90.

"He was a great loving father and a fantastic mentor," says Wayne Harding III, his son. "He loved his five kids, grandkids and great grandkids. He was dynamic. He always had the glass business in his blood, and always thought about how to make it better. He never rested, and was one of those guys who never retired."

Lyle Hill, managing director of Keytech North America, says he got to know Harding Jr. a number of years ago while working together on a business venture. "I quickly came to respect and admire him," Hill says. "He was a man of incredible integrity, fair in his dealings and helpful to those around him at every opportunity. I genuinely enjoyed our times together and he was without question one of the most fascinating people I ever met."

Professionally, Harding Jr. was always thinking about how to improve the industry, says Bob Brown, principal of Robert L Brown and Associates in Martinsville, Va. "He left a reputation of being humble, honest and successful," he says. "And he left a legacy of looking for better ways to get things done for his company and the industry. He wasn't selfish, and always shared his knowledge and visions, even sometimes with his competitors, to do what is right for the industry."

Harding Jr. was very active with the Glass Association of North America (GANA) of Topeka, Kan., its predecessor, the Flat Glass Marketing Association (FGMA) and its predecessor, the Flat Glass Jobbers Association, says Kim Mann, general counsel for GANA. "He was a good friend of the general counsel of FGMA, Alvis Layne, with whom I worked from 1965 until 1973," he says. "I got to know him through Alvis. He was just a really marvelous man, highly respected in the industry, well-versed and intellectually interested in the business side of it. He kept learning until very, very late in his life. People would say that he was an industry force and industry leader."

Harding Jr. served as president, then chairperson, of FGMA, and represented the industry at senate hearings on Small Business and U.S. Tariff Commission hearings in Washington, D.C., for which he received the Thompson Award of Merit, says Harding III.

Born in Fort Smith, Ark., Harding Jr. graduated from Princeton with a degree in engineering. His father, W.E. Harding Sr., and his grandfather, C.H. Harding were manufacturers of window glass in Fort Smith. In 1918 they built a plant and called it Harding Glass Co., Harding III says.

Harding Jr., was trained as a naval fighter pilot in WWII, after which he became a civilian test pilot for Chance Vought Aircraft, according to Harding III. Wayne Harding Sr. talked him out of being a pilot and bought Acme Glass Co. in Topeka, Kan., in 1947 and partnered with Wayne Harding Jr., in 1948 to form Harding Glass Industries (HGI). Harding Jr. became the president and CEO of the company in 1950. By 1965, HGI had grown to 53 operations in eight states.

HGI was sold to Sun Co. in 1978 and became a part of ACI/Binswanger. Harding Jr. also co-founded another company named Harding Steel Inc. in 1968.

"He was a pioneer in the industry and a renaissance man," says Debra Levy, publisher of USGNN.com™ /USGlass magazine. "He was a sharp operator and a true gentleman at the same time."

Harding Jr. also was an author and wrote three books: The Extra 2%, His Edge and Love's Edge.

"A few years ago he autographed and sent me a copy of His Edge, which offered a semi-autobiographical account of his years spent as a pilot first for the Navy during WWII and then later as a test pilot," Hill says. "The book was very good, but the fact that a man that I admired and who had kindly allowed me to call him 'friend' had written it and took the time to send it to me will always mean a great deal more."

"My biggest sorrow is that I didn't know him early enough, because I think he had a lot of knowledge and wisdom," adds Brown. "We've lost an icon. I hope others in the industry will step up and fill the void that he has left."

Subscribe to USGlass magazine.
Subscribe to receive the free e-newsletter.