Hardy, former Harris County district clerk, dies in Huntsville [Houston Chronicle]
(Houston Chronicle (TX) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 29--Ray Hardy, a longtime Harris County district clerk credited with bringing the office into the computer age, died Sunday at a Huntsville hospice. He was 85.
Hardy, son of a New Waverly farmer, joined the district clerk's office in the late 1940s as an assistant typist. He was appointed district clerk upon the death of his predecessor in 1967 and held the office through repeated elections until 1990.
Hardy, current District Clerk Chris Daniel said, transformed an operation dependent on handwritten or typed documents into one that made many records accessible via computer.
'Ahead of his time'
"He really was ahead of his time," Daniel said. "He not only brought the office into the (computer age) but helped other counties and their district clerks."
Hank Husky, chief deputy clerk during Hardy's tenure, said his former boss was responsible for the "complete automation and microfilming" of records kept by the office. "He was an elected official who understood the office to which he was elected."
Hardy, he said, played a major role in developing the computer-based Justice Information Management System, adopted in 1977, that keeps track of jury information and civil and criminal cases.
Daniel said Hardy also worked to automate the jury selection system, which still relied on a wire cage filled with paper slips bearing prospective jurors' names when he took office. With former state District Judge Shearn Smith, Hardy developed a "one day, one trial" system that streamlined jury selection.
Prior to that early 1970s innovation, Daniel said, jury candidates were "on the hook for a whole week. Waiting all day for a whole week made a lot of people less willing to perform their jury service."
Smith characterized Hardy as a hard worker who often "worked extra-long hours to try to serve the people."
Hardy's son, David, a Belton physician, recalled his father's stringent work ethic.
"When he wasn't working at the courthouse, he was working at the ranch ... " the younger Hardy recalled. "When he took on a job, no matter what level a job, he did it well. He started at the courthouse as a temporary typist. By doing that job well, he finally came to head the district clerk's office."
Raised on farm
The elder Hardy's dedication to work may have been rooted in his early farm experience. One of three children on a farm that raised cotton, corn, hay and cattle, Hardy had chores that included milking a small herd of dairy cows, then marketing the output.
"This all was before going to high school," his son said. "That's why he went into the Navy."
For all his seriousness of purpose, Hardy was a gregarious man who enjoyed talking.
"He never was a stranger," his son said.
At the courthouse, Hardy was a savvy manager of staff and county commissioners.
When county commissioners balked at providing funds for additional storage space for records, Hardy put the papers in a warehouse, then contrived to have state inspectors condemn the facility, David Hardy said. When an assistant clerk, disgruntled over not getting a raise, scrambled computerized jury information, Hardy turned the employee over to law enforcement officers and solicited help from NASA to decipher the crucial files.
In addition to his son, Hardy is survived by Connie, his wife of 64 years.
Funeral will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Sam Houston Memorial Funeral Home in Huntsville.
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