As early as age 7, while under his father’s guidance, Vicksburg native Lawrence Hardge demonstrated his natural gift at analyzing and improving the machines and electrical equipment around him.
Hardge’s current involvement with state-of-the-art developments in the relatively new electrical vehicle battery industry may become his most heralded achievement. His retrofitted battery system, he says, has nearly doubled the performance ratings of most vehicular batteries so far.
“Well, you have to understand it’s not just for cars,” he says. “It’s for wheelchairs, computers, stereos, laptops, and drones. It’s something that will have an impact all over the world. That’s what we have. We’ve been partying with some of the big boys.”
As an electrical inventor, he is ahead of the curve on the electric car battery and the effectiveness of his product has been certified by the world’s top testing lab, he said.
“Ford Motor Company recommended me to the largest international testing lab in the world to send my vehicles to be tested,” he says. “And I got them certified to do what I say they do. And they – the environmental engineers, EPA, the Department of Commerce – signed off on them. And they put in the documentation: ‘To be determined by Hardge.’ ‘If he wants to put it in a wheelchair, a drone, a tank, a truck, he’s proven that it works.’”
He first came into the public eye in 1998 with the TV promotions of his new fire suppressing product called the Knockout 360. Since the 1998 version, it’s been greatly improved, he said.
“I enhanced the applications and it’s been on national TV, Lifetime, Discovery, and a long list of other channels, promoted by the people who promote OxiClean and Kaboom. The promotion company really made it big off OxiClean. And they picked up my product, Knockout 360 Fire Extinguisher, and put me on the map.”
Hardge reportedly has over 120 product prototypes that he has developed, and he holds patents on dozens of potential products that are being developed under licensing agreements with companies scattered around the world from Taiwan and Hong Kong to the Dominican Republic, along with a slew of companies in the USA like Ford and Napa.
Besides Knockout 360 and his retro-fitted battery system, he has created such products as Smackout 911, Hardge Window Wipe-It, Hardge Tire Foam, and Hardge Seal-It, plus a dining-room utensil called the Party Plate.
“I’m the son of Henry Hardge, a native of Edwards,” Hardge, now 56, says. “He had only a fourth-grade education. I used to work with him. I was working in electricity and batteries, you name it, as a kid. I’ve always been an inventor, self-taught and no degree. My mother’s name is Pearl McGowan, and she lives here in Vicksburg.”
Somewhere in his mid-twenties, Hardge developed a fire-suppressant that worked a lot better and was a lot less messy than the big red fire extinguisher that is usually displayed in buildings to meet government safety regulations.
He named his product Knockout 360 and it knocked out small fires inside or outside the home in just seconds without leaving the sticky residue that the other fire suppressants do. With no messy cleanups, no toxic chemicals or odors, and a lot easier to use than the typical tank-style extinguisher, his product began attracting sales promotion experts across the country. He was a millionaire before the age of 30.
TIMES OF TROUBLE
It wasn’t long before some of the go-getters from Vicksburg persuaded him to come home and lend his business expertise and success to the community that had nurtured him.
Hardge says he wound up being deceived by some of his “homies” who were engaged in shady business practices. He went to prison, but he has been cleared of all the charges that were the basis of his sentence and the record has been completely expunged. He volunteered the following account of his difficulties that began in 1999 and finally ensnared him in 2001.
“I was living in New York and L.A. at the same time,” Hardge says. “During that time, a gentleman who has since died and some of his associates came to me and said they wanted me to give back to the community. I told them I was too busy and had no interest in taking on the proposed project.
“But they said they would run it for me. I asked, ‘how are you going to pay the employees?’ They said they would raise the money to pay the employees. At that time, Vicksburg had a whole different atmosphere. A lot of corruption. A who-you-know kind of insider gang.
“But I didn’t know. I left here before high school. I didn’t know none of these folks. I didn’t even know the investors they brought in. I had never dealt with them or anything. Only after they started the company did I find out that every dime that was put in, they spent it buying real estate.
“From New York, I went and filed charges. But when I came to file the charges here in Warren County, they retaliated against me, claiming the shares that were sold to the people weren’t ready. Yet, I had already given the lawyer $10,000 that they brought in. But he was their friend, their lawyer. And they all went against me.
“My mom introduced me to another lawyer as my defense counsel, a gentleman named Wren Ray. He tried to do the best he could. But, he had never had a case like this. And with me never being in any trouble, I didn’t understand. They told me to plead no-contest and that I would get a non-adjudicated sentence, and that I would have no record.
“And I went in there thinking maybe I’d get some leniency, like they said. The judge was an African American, Judge Isidore Patrick, and he gave me 24 years. My first offense. Man, I was just blown away, because I had seen people doing worse; they’d given them a year, probation, or something less. They gave me 24 years. I’ll never forget my lawyer came and told me that the district attorney had said there was no man in Mississippi smart enough to invent what this defendant claims he invented.”
BACK ON TRACK
Hardge still lists his business addresses for Hardge Global Manufacturing in Farmington Hills, Michigan; Beverly Hills, California; and Beebe, Arkansas. He is also in the process of opening an office in the Regions Bank building in downtown Jackson.
He is frequently in the news as a down-to-earth philanthropist, to the point that when he learns of a single mother being burned out of her home in Vicksburg, he voluntarily offers her an apartment and the new furniture that he had bought for himself.
He is also developing a sports bar and entertainment complex on Clay Street in Vicksburg – the second busiest street in the city – basically because he likes good music and wants to bring it back to the one-time oasis of the Blues and Jazz.
“I always wanted to give back to my community,” Hardge said while standing outside the former bank building in Vicksburg that hasn’t been in service for nearly 20 years. “I’ve got this building here. It’s going to be a sports and entertainment bar. I love entertainment. I love good music. I purchased this to give back. I’m going to put battery vehicle charging stations in the lot beside it.
“We’re working on the owners of the Pemberton Square Mall in Vicksburg, also. They are out of Atlanta. They’ve given me the green light to go ahead and put up charging stations, because they know when people charge their car, they’re going to want to go and eat while their car is charging.”
Hardge recalls with a smile how different things were 20 years ago when he had first come home to Vicksburg on what he thought would be an honorable mission.
The culmination of his life as inventor and businessman may soon receive its long overdue recognition, nevertheless. Hardge has been notified by the University of Michigan, which is located only 35 miles from Hardge Global Manufacturing offices in Farmington Hills, that he is being prepped for a possible Nobel Prize nomination by the university.
“I interviewed with the University of Michigan last year,” he said. “I spent about eight hours with them. They wanted to nominate me for a Nobel Prize. They thought I was the perfect candidate.”