HARDING, FORREST ASHBY (1913~1985) Forrest Ashby Harding, State Representative, was born on November 4, 1913, in Roanoke, Virginia, to Marion L. and Maggie Pace Harding. His family moved to Pulaski, Virginia, in 1917, where he attended school.
In 1934, Harding moved to Washington, D. C. and worked for the Capitol Transit Company. In 1939, he joined the District of Columbia National Guard and was called into active duty in the U. S. Army Air Corps, where he served with the 121st Observation Squadron. In 1942, he attained the rank of Tech Sergeant and was recommended for Officer Candidate School (OCS). After attending OCS in Miami, Florida, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant.
On Christmas Day, 1942, Harding arrived in San Angelo, Texas, where he served as an engineering officer at the San Angelo Bombardier Base (Mathis Field). From San Angelo, he went on to serve in the China, Burma, India Theater as a Reclamation and Salvage Officer. He was based in Calcutta, India, and had the opportunity to meet Mahatma Ghandi. After the war, Harding returned to San Angelo and was assigned to Goodfellow Field, where he was discharged as a major in 1947.
After leaving the Air Corps, Harding stayed in San Angelo and entered the real estate business - later opening his own office. In 1949, taking advantage of the GI Bill, he entered San Angelo College, a junior college, and graduated in 1950. He then attended law school at Baylor University and received his degree in 1953.
After returning to San Angelo, he was appointed City Judge. After serving in that capacity for five years, he ran for State Representative, but was forced to drop out of the race after suffering a heart attack. He ran again in 1960, and won. He took his oath of office on January 10, 1961.
Representing the citizens of San Angelo and Tom Green County for thirteen years, Harding set to work to abolish the poll tax, raise teacher's salaries, and revise the State Constitution. He was instrumental in passing legislation that created the Lipan Flats Control District, the South Concho River Flood Control District, and the Upper Colorado River Authority, which was later vetoed.
Though Harding had a distinguished career as a State Representative, he will be remembered for his work in making San Angelo College a four-year institution. In his first session, Harding got the bill passed in the House, but was unsuccessful in the Senate. Success was at hand in 1963, when Harding, along with Governor Connally, fought hard against the opposition to get the bill signed into law. Shortly thereafter, San Angelo College became Angelo State University.
Aside from the San Angelo College Bill, Harding passed some other memorable bills, including the "Free Potty Bill." This legislation required any establishment selling alcoholic beverages to provide free bathrooms to its customers. He also co-sponsored legislation that named petrified palm wood as the state stone and the Mason County blue topaz as the state gem.
After leaving the legislature in 1973, Harding returned to San Angelo, where he continued to practice law and was active in his community. He was a member of the American Legion and served as Commander of the Jess D. Booth Chapter of the Disabled American Veterans. He was president of the San Angelo Safety Association and was a recipient of their Distinguished Service Award. He was also a member of the American Judicature, American Realtors Association, the Elks Club, and the San Angelo Arts and Crafts Club. An avid "rockhound" and lapadarist, Harding was the first president of the San Angelo Archeological Society and president of the Twin Mountain Gem and Mineral Society. He was also a 32nd degree Mason and a member of the Scottish Rite.
Harding married his first wife, Genelen Flynn, in Salinas, California in 1942. After their divorce, he married Leanorah Bryant Huddleston on November 30, 1970, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
While visiting family in Austin, Harding passed away on April 21, 1985. He was buried in the Texas State Cemetery three days later.
On the one-year anniversary of his death, Representative Harding's widow, Leanorah, presented Angelo State University the Quadrabell Carillon Bell System - combining two of Harding's greatest interests - good music and Angelo State University.
Information taken from: obituary, un-named paper, April, 1985, and March, 1999, Angelo State University President's Report.