Rufus Forley Hardin, educator, was born into slavery on August 24, 1859, in Kaufman County, Texas. He married Mary J. Vasher, who died in Terrell in 1903. In 1905 he married Mary Jane Lasseter, and she died in Brownwood in 1934. Hardin did not have children from either marriage.
R. F. Hardin was educated in Kaufman County, Texas. He graduated from Prairie View Normal Institute (now Prairie View A&M University). He also enrolled in courses at Paul Quinn College in Waco, Tillotson College in Austin, and Fisk University in Tennessee.
Hardin began his teaching career in Kaufman County and also taught in Van Zandt County. In 1896 he moved to Brownwood, where he taught in the Brownwood Colored School which was founded by the pioneer teacher in Brownwood, George W. Smith. Hardin became the school’s third principal and led the efforts to construct a new building for the school in 1917. He devoted his life to education and the school and served as principal for thirty-eight years, until he suffered a stroke and had to retire in 1934. In September 1934 the school was named Rufus F. Hardin High School in honor of its founder at a christening ceremony. It was later renamed Rufus F. Hardin Elementary in 1966. By the 2010s efforts were underway to preserve the building as the Rufus F. Hardin Museum.
R. F. Hardin was also devoted to the community. He helped many individuals to become homeowners by building homes and selling them to buyers based on their ability to pay. He was a member of the Lee Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Brownwood and served as a Sunday school teacher and superintendent. He was also a member of the Square Men in Terrell, a Masonic group. Hardin died on July 3, 1949, in Brownwood and is buried in Greenleaf Cemetery.