It is impossible to tell K. D. Hardy’s story without talking about his mother. In addition to giving birth to him, you could say also that Patricia Hardy helped re-birth her son. And she did it with a big dose of tough love.
The family lived in Birmingham, where she worked as a medical secretary and her husband, Robert Hardy Jr., worked as a press operator at a brick factory. The Hardys bought a home and sent K.D. and his younger sister, Paquita, to private schools. As an adult, K.D. went to college for a while then into the Navy Reserves. He got married, had a son and opened several businesses in Atlanta.
Then one day Patricia Hardy’s youngest brother called and told her to look in the newspaper, that there was an article in it about her son, Kerry, also called K.D.
Hardy couldn’t believe what she read. K.D. had been arrested, gone to trial and sentenced to more than seven years for conspiracy to sell drugs.
He had not told his family about his arrest or trial. “I knew that they didn’t raise me like that. I knew what kind of pain that would cause them,” said K.D.
He was living in Atlanta, so he was able to hide his illegal activities from his family and he never seemed to have extra money, said his mother. Nevertheless, there he was in December of 1999 entering prison at the age 29.
Finally, since the judge gave K.D. two months to get his legitimate businesses in order before turning himself in to go to prison, he began to say goodbye to his family.
His mother remembers those months as an emotional time. “When he was leaving, my husband grabbed him and pulled him to his chest and cried and cried and said, ‘Boy, take care of yourself and come back to me.’”
That moment is something K.D. said he will never forget either. “I realized my actions hurt a lot of people besides myself.”
He had been in prison three days when he called his mother to say he was so depressed he felt he couldn’t make it through his sentence.
That’s when Patricia Hardy handed her son the first dose of tough love.
K.D. said she wrote him a letter. It said, "Nelson Mandela did 27 years for trying to uplift his people; I am sure you can muster up the courage to do seven and a half years for helping to destroy them.”
The letter was accompanied by 24 books that included the Bible, a book by Nelson Mandela, Les Brown’s "Live Your Dream" and Reginald Lewis’s "Why Should White Men Have All the Fun?"
“She told me the things (Mandela) did to comfort himself, aligning himself with God, reading books to take his mind away from the place he was in.”
His mother doesn’t remember everything she said, but she does remember this: “I didn’t put you there; you put your own self there. You have plenty of time to repent. Talk to the Lord and ask him to put you back on the right path.”
K.D. decided to educate himself by taking classes and reading.
“I read close to 500 books on personal and spiritual development, parenting and psychology and lots of biographies and autobiographies,” said K.D. “I decided to become a better person and learn as much as I could. I wanted to become closer to God and get an education.”
He and his wife separated temporarily and his best friend Michael brought his son to visit him, regularly. His parents paid his bills and sent his son to private school; his sister paid for him to take his classes and Michael mentored his son, attending sports and school activities to stand for his best friend.
One thing his mom did not do was to visit regularly. Instead, she prayed. “I said, ‘Lord, you said a child is a gift to you. I’m coming to the altar to give my child back to you. I don’t want him back until you cleanse him.’
“When I gave Kerry back to the Lord, I didn’t care whether I saw him or not,” said Hardy. “I made sure he had a Bible, the biblical books and books of stories of people’s lives who had been in trouble. I sent him different poems and scriptures. I made sure his mind was filled with the love of God and God’s word. I was giving him back the foundation he had already and somehow had let it escape…”
His father couldn’t bear seeing him behind bars so he only visited twice.
Meanwhile, K.D. took college correspondence courses, maintaining an A average. He left prison with a certificate in nutrition and personal training, an Associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education and a diploma from a one-year course in financial planning.
He left prison on December 23, 2005 and got his first job was at Publix grocery store, a long ways from earning big money on the streets. For a while he had his own delivery service and he rehabbed houses. After the real estate market crashed, K.D. had a “come-to-Jesus” meeting, where he said he promised God “I’m going to do what I told you I was going to do, which was speaking and helping others that could learn from my story.”
Today, K.D. writes his own books. (www.kdspeakstoyouth.com) In addition to his autobiography "These Four Walls", K.D. has written three other books, "Parenting by Example for Drug Free Kids," "Freshman Orientation" and "Bully Proof."
He lives in Birmingham, where he long ago reunited with his wife Tracy. Their son Kerry is 16 and a rising senior.
“He was always driven, always a very good guy, family-oriented,” said Tracy Hardy. “It’s wonderful to see the man he has become and to see him own up to the damage he did to the community and want to repair that. I have a lot of respect for him.”
His son Kerry knew his father mostly through his letters.
“I didn’t really remember him being around,” said Kerry. “I did see other kids with dads and it did kinda bother me sometimes.”
He was about 11 when his father was released and the two have a close, loving relationship today.
“I look up to him,” said Kerry. “He is a good guy, always reading. He is a man of his word. I compare myself to him."
K.D. now travels around talking to youth groups and adult organizations about achieving excellence.
“My goal is to reach as many people as I can…,” said K.D.. “I want to continue to grow as a person and really touch people and help them understand the importance of continuously working on yourself.”