SONORA — Judge James Rowan Hardin, who was known for his hard work and his devotion to his large family, died Saturday at his Sonora home. He was 86.
Hardin was the sole judge in Tuolumne County Superior Court for most of his 12-year tenure. At one point, he was doing the work of 2.2 judges, according to the California Judicial Commission.
"Jim was a real man of integrity, just a very decent guy, conscientious and hardworking," said Judge William Polley, who joined him on the bench in 1989.
Hardin, the grandson of Gold Rush pioneers, was born Aug. 12, 1923, in Sonora. One of his grandfathers was James P. Hardin, who served on the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors.
His father, Rowan Hardin, served as district attorney and as Sonora's city attorney. His mother, Edna Hardin, was a suffragette and taught in the one-room Chinese Camp School.
Hardin graduated from Sonora High School, where he met his future wife, Alice Foletti. They married in 1945 while he was serving as a Navy fighter pilot in World War II.
After the war, Hardin earned a law degree at Santa Clara University. He then started a 31-year practice in his native town, specializing in mining, probate and real estate law.
Hardin ran unopposed for judge in 1980 and served until retiring in 1992. During this time, the caseload grew but the state was slow to create a second judgeship.
"Back when I was by myself, in order to get my (case) reading done, I generally started about 4 in the morning," Hardin said in a 1990 interview with The Modesto Bee. "It was the only time I could get things done."
Hardin served for 12 years on the Sonora Union High School District board of education. He also was active in the Elks Lodge, E Clampus Vitus, Lions Club, Stockton Diocese Council, Tuolumne County Historical Society and other groups.
After retirement, Hardin spent time with his family and enjoyed reading, crossword puzzles, mushroom hunting and cooking Italian meals.
He was preceded in death by his daughter, Susanne Hardin; brother, Ben Hardin; and sister, Rowena True.
He is survived by his wife, Alice Hardin; daughters Jeannette Thorup, Ariane Mat-schullat, Rowena Garon, Debra Hardin and Corinne Larson; sons James T. Hardin and Jon Hardin; sister, Annetta Roberts; 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 2 to 7 p.m. today, followed by a 7 p.m. vigil, at Terzich and Wilson Funeral Home, 225 Rose St., Sonora. A funeral will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Patrick's Catholic Church, 116 W. Bradford St., Sonora.
Remembrances may be made to the Matthew 25 Program at St. Patrick's; Save Our St. Anne's Church, P.O. Box 1755, Columbia 95310; or a favorite charity.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2385.