President and Mrs. Lyndon Johnson along with their daughters, Lynda Johnson Robb and Luci Baines Johnson, developed professional and close personal friendships with many U. S. Secret Service agents who protected each of them during the presidency, vice presidency, and after leaving the White House.
Secret Service Agent Jim Hardin touched their lives in immeasurable and lasting ways. Hardin, 80, died unexpectedly on Aug. 23, 2016, at his home in Fredericksburg.
Hardin’s career in the Secret Service came just two years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November 1963.
The Warren Commission, charged with investigating Kennedy’s murder, called for hiring more Secret Service agents.
Hardin left his job as a teacher and football coach at Haltom High School in Haltom, to join the Secret Service, beginning his career in 1965.
Lynda Johnson Robb was the first member of the Johnson family to receive protection from Hardin. In 1966, he served as her agent while she was a student at The University of Texas at Austin, escorting her to the library, to class, to her sorority house – even on dates.
“Jim Hardin was more than a protective agent to our family,” Robb said. “He was a friend, had the highest level of integrity, was humble and trustworthy. Although Jim took his duties seriously and professionally, he was a great storyteller and loved a good joke. And, above all, his faith was always important to him.”
Later, Hardin joined the protective detail of President Lyndon Johnson where he was a constant presence, which greatly impacted Luci Baines Johnson.
“Jim Hardin was a professional who sought excellence in everything,” Johnson said. “He was a dedicated family man who adored his wife, Nancy, their children and grandchildren. He selflessly served on his school board and faithfully attended his church. In his final days of retirement, we found his telephone answering machine’s ‘thought for the day’ still inspiring us to be better persons. There’s a hole in my heart with Jim’s passing. But my family has been forever blessed to have known his love, the twinkle in his eyes, and his example.”
Tom Johnson, a White House Fellow and Deputy Press Secretary in the Johnson Administration, knew and admired Hardin.
“Jim Hardin was a very special man. His family, especially his children and grandchildren, always came first in his life,” Johnson said. “Not far behind was his love of the U.S. Secret Service and those he protected. He was a magnificent leader, a devoted coach, and a very close friend. He touched the lives of all who knew him with his kindness, his warmth and his unfailing humor. My wife Edwina and I will miss him more than words can adequately describe.”
After the Johnsons left the White House in 1969, Hardin remained in Washington, D. C., and served President Richard Nixon for two years.
Following that assignment, he returned to Texas and spent the rest of his career with the Johnson family.
After President Johnson’s death in 1973, Hardin continued as an agent assigned to Lady Bird Johnson. He protected her as Special Agent in Charge for 23 years, from her work and personal life in Texas to international destinations, many related to her work on the Board of Directors of the National Geographic Society.
When he retired from the Secret Service in 1995, Lady Bird Johnson asked him to work on projects at the LBJ Ranch.
Hardin was the “go to” man for any questions regarding the Ranch, eventually becoming General Manager of the LBJ Ranch.
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