R.I.P. Mike Harden

December 19, 2010 at 1:24 pm (Uncategorized)

Photo by Dick Garrett, Scripps-Howard Newspapers/Grandview Heights Public Library/Photohio.org

Although Columbus Dispatch columnist Mike Harden and I had both worked for the Ohio Youth Commission early in our careers, our paths never crossed at the time. It was only in the final year of his life that we had the opportunity to meet and compare our experiences. When I initially mentioned our common background, he immediately asked, “Did you ever hear how I wound up there?” I said I didn’t, and he proceeded to tell me a story which I will now repeat to the best of my ability because I feel it illustrates the type of man he was.

After Mike got out of the service, he enrolled at The Ohio State University, graduating with a degree in journalism. One of his earliest jobs was as a legislative aid of some sort (I wish I had jotted down some notes; I am relying entirely on my memory). Initially, Mike found it exciting to be working behind the scenes in state government. However, he soon saw the ugly side of politics, too.

What Mike found especially troubling were the lies. He was enough of an insider to know what the real budget numbers were. But when it came time for state budget hearings, they were expected to lie about them. Mike said he reached a point where he simply couldn’t be a party to it any longer. When he stated his objections, he was “exiled” to the Ohio Youth Commission to do public relations.

Mike said he had a lot of fun working in the OYC central office, but did not feel he was given anything particularly meaningful to do. Afterwards, he worked on Ohio magazine and Columbus Monthly, before joining the Columbus Citizen-Journal in 1981. When it folded, he moved over to The Columbus Dispatch.

Throughout his career, Mike retained an interest in society’s forgotten people.  I regret that he did not get to finish his book on his bank-robbing uncle (and namesake) who had supported the family during the depression with the proceeds from his crimes. But I suppose all writers leave unfinished stories behind and if it hadn’t been this one it would have been another. R.I.P. Mike.

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