In Memory

Eugene Herbert Henry

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07/22/13 07:42 AM #1    

Board Director 3


HENRY, EUGENE HERBERT, SR. (1894–1984). Eugene Herbert Henry, Sr., educator and
namesake for the African-American high school in Eagle Lake, Texas, was born on
November 15, 1894, in Flatonia, Fayette County, Texas, to James Henry II and
Eliza Mountain Henry. Eugene had ten siblings.
Eugene Henry attended the public schools in Armstrong Colony, a freedmen’s
settlement in Fayette County, eight miles west of Flatonia. He and his brothers
and sisters were required by their family to perform many chores, so they took
turns attending school. As a result, Eugene was twenty-one years old when he
graduated from the eighth grade. However, he distinguished himself as an honors
student. In 1915 he took an examination for teachers conducted by the county
school board and was certified to teach, although he did not begin teaching at
that time.
In 1917 Henry began college at Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College
(now Prairie View A&M University), where he earned a B. A. degree. While an
undergraduate there, he worked for fifteen cents an hour to pay his college
expenses. Upon graduation, he was awarded a scholarship by the YMCA to attend
graduate school at Howard University in Washington, D.C. During World War I,
Henry served as a second lieutenant in the United States Army.
In August 1921 Eugene Henry married Mamie Althea Jackson. They had met at
Prairie View. The couple had six children, five of whom (three sons and two
daughters) survived to adulthood. Their marriage lasted until Henry’s death more
than sixty-two years later.
Henry began his teaching career in the Waelder Community in Gonzales County,
where he taught all subjects for grades one through eight. Then he taught in
Fort Bend County. Later he taught school and became the principal of the school
for blacks in Eagle Lake in Colorado County and served there for more than a
quarter century.
Over the years, Eagle Lake has produced a number of outstanding African-American
artisans, musicians, athletes, politicians, law officers, educators, religious
leaders, and business people, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. The black
schools in Colorado County have produced students who went on to later earn
Ph.D.s and become lawyers, engineers, and registered nurses; they also have
produced a graduate who became a college president and one who became an
assistant superintendent of schools. By 1917 a number of black school teachers
were employed in Eagle Lake’s black school.
In 1929 Professor Henry applied to the Julius Rosenwald Foundation for a grant
to build a new school for blacks in Eagle Lake (see ROSENWALD SCHOOLS). The
following year, the Rosenwald Foundation awarded Eagle Lake $7,000 for
construction of the school. Henry then helped raise money for the three and a
half acres of land on which to build the school. Encouraged by Professor Henry,
community leaders and parents of students sold pies, cakes, ice cream, and eggs
to raise money for the land. Henry also asked black business owners for
donations and took up special collections from local churches as well. Within
six months, the required $1,365 for the land was raised. The Department of
Education in Austin was very instrumental in the naming of Eagle Lake’s new
black school for its energetic and optimistic principal.
Henry never gave a student a grade of 100. In explanation, he once said, “No
matter if a student gets every problem correct, no one is perfect in anything he
The E. H. Henry High School continued to serve the community until Eagle Lake
schools were racially integrated. After that, the building became the Eagle Lake
Primary School.
In 1952 Henry contacted Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson in an effort to secure
jobs for his students; his effort was successful. In 1976 Henry was able to
obtain bus transportation for disabled senior citizens in Wharton County.
Henry was a faithful member of the Elm Grove Baptist Church. He was a
Thirty-third degree Mason, a member of the Knights of Pythias, and commander of
Camp No. 132 of Woodmen of the World. He was an active member of the Wharton
County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
(NAACP). He served as the recording secretary of the Twentieth Century Baptist
District Association and was a past president of the South Texas Readers
Association. He also belonged to other community and service organizations,
including the Wharton County Involving Committee.
Professor Henry once said, “I have been successful in nearly all of the
organizations I have joined, but I am not 100% satisfied with the cooperation I
receive. No matter where one goes, there is always one who does not cooperate.
This is no perfect world.”
Henry had served the Eagle Lake school system for more than twenty-five years.
Upon his retirement in about 1951, he was able to spend the last few decades of
his long life fulfilling one of the goals that he had set for himself early in
life—to enjoy living a quiet life on his Elm Grove farm. On their 143-acre Elm
Grove farm, the Henrys, assisted by one of their sons, grew a variety of crops
and raised cattle.
E. H. Henry died on March 5, 1984, at eighty-nine years of age. His funeral was
held on March 10 at the Tabernacle in Egypt, Texas. Rev. N. Williams, pastor of
the Elm Grove Baptist Church, conducted the funeral. His wife Mamie lived to be
100 years old. They are buried in the Elm Grove Community Cemetery.
Years later, in 2013, one Eagle Lake resident commented, “Prof. Henry is a hero
to all blacks and many whites here. It is my misfortune never to meet him.”
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Colorado County Historical Commission, Colorado County Chronicles
from the Beginning to 1923 (2 vols., Austin: Nortex, 1986). Helen Craig, Email
correspondence with the author, January 13, 2013. Eagle Lake Headlight, August
12, 1971; March 22, 1984. E. H. Henry, Jr., Telephone Interview by author,
January 18, 2013. Eugene H. Henry III, “The Biography of E. H. Henry, Senior”
(clipping), Archives of the Prairie Edge Museum, Eagle Lake, Texas. Mamie A. J.
Henry, Funeral announcement, January 21, 1995, Egypt, Texas, Archives of the
Prairie Edge Museum, Eagle Lake, Texas. Eagle Lake Historical Committee, A
History of Eagle Lake (Austin: Eakin Press, 1987). Sandra C. Thomas, Historic
Eagle Lake (Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2012).

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