Jesse Smith Henley

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Jesse Smith Henley
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
In office
March 14, 1975 – May 31, 1982
Nominated by Gerald R. Ford, Jr.
Preceded by Pat Mehaffy
Succeeded by Pasco Bowman II
Judge of both the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas
In office
September 8, 1959 – March 24, 1975
Nominated by Dwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded by Harry J. Lemley
Succeeded by Terry Lee Shell
Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas
In office
October 25, 1958 – September 11, 1959
Nominated by Dwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded by Thomas Clark Trimble, III
Succeeded by Gordon Elmo Young
Personal details
Born (1917-05-18)May 18, 1917
Saint Joe, Searcy County
Arkansas, USA
Died October 18, 1997(1997-10-18) (aged 80)
Harrison, Boone County
Resting place Henley Cemetery in Saint Joe, Arkansas
Political party Republican
Alma mater University of Arkansas School of Law
Profession Attorney

Jesse Smith Henley (May 18, 1917 – October 18, 1997) was a United States federal judge from Arkansas.


Henley was born in Saint Joe in Searcy County in northern Arkansas to Benjamin Harrison Henley and the former Jessie Genoa Willis Smith. In 1941, Henley received an LL.B. from the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville. He was in private practice in Fayetteville from 1941 to 1954. From 1943 to 1945, he was a clerk and a Referee in Bankruptcy for the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas. In 1954, he became an associate general counsel in the Federal Communications Commission. In 1956, he was named a director in the Office of Administrative Procedure of the United States Department of Justice.

Judicial career[edit]

When Judge Thomas Clark Trimble, III, retired, the Arkansas Republican State Committee recommended Osro Cobb, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas as Trimble's successor. Trimble had sworn in Cobb as U.S. attorney in 1954. A former Republican member of the Arkansas House of Representatives, Cobb carried the support of Democratic U.S. Senators John Little McClellan and J. William Fulbright. Attorney General of the United States Herbert Brownell, Jr., had also promised to support Cobb for the judicial opening. The Little Rock Integration Crisis, however, ensued, and Cobb continued as U.S. attorney during the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock. Brownell, meanwhile, resigned and was replaced by William P. Rogers. Cobb later said that his oil investments began to multiply and paid far more than he would have earned as a federal judge had he gotten the appointment that he sought.[1]

On October 25, 1958, Henley received a recess appointment from U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower to the seat Trimble vacated. Formally nominated on January 17, 1959, Henley's service was terminated on September 11, 1959, after his nomination was rejected by the United States Senate.

Before Henley's recess appointment expired, on August 18, 1959, Eisenhower had already re-nominated Henley to a seat on the combined Eastern and Western District of Arkansas, both seats having been vacated by Harry J. Lemley. This time, Henley was confirmed by the Senate on September 2, 1959, and received his commission on September 8, 1959 - three days before the expiration of his recess appointment. Henley's service on the District Court ended on March 24, 1975, following his elevation to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

On January 28, 1975, Henley was nominated to the Eighth Circuit by U.S. President Gerald R. Ford, Jr., to a seat vacated by Pat Mehaffy. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on March 13, 1975, and received his commission the following day. He assumed senior status on May 31, 1982, and served in that capacity until his death in Harrison, Arkansas. The J. Smith Henley Federal Building in Harrison is named in his honor.

Henley's older brother, Benjamin Charles Henley, was a lawyer from Harrison who served as a chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party from 1955 to 1962.[2] In 1956, as his party's unsuccessful nominee for the U.S. Senate against J. William Fulbright, Ben Henley finished with 17 percent of the vote, well behind his party's presidential nominee, Dwight Eisenhower, who still lost Arkansas in the second race against Adlai E. Stevenson, II, of Illinois.


  1. ^ Osro Cobb, Osro Cobb of Arkansas: Memoirs of Historical Significance, Carol Griffee, ed. (Little Rock, Arkansas: Rose Publishing Company, 1989), pp. 135-136
  2. ^ Cathy Kunzinger Urwin, Agenda for Reform: Winthrop Rockefeller As Governor of Arkansas, 1967-71, p. 37. Fayetteville, Arkansas: University of Arkansas Press. Retrieved August 19, 2012.