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Henry was born in Kopu near Thames in 1903 to John and Edith Henry. His father was a forester and sawmiller. At primary school, he won a scholarship to Auckland Grammar School but, with the onset of the First World War that depressed the New Zealand economy, he left school early and worked for the New Zealand Postal Service as a messenger.
He continued to study in his spare time and entered Law School at the University of Auckland.
In 1929, after marrying the late Doris, he joined Hamilton's then biggest and busiest practice, MacDiarmid Mears and Gray. When a partnership was not forthcoming he and Philip Harkness set up Harkness Henry in 1945. The firm continues to exist to this day.
In 1969 he gave former High Court justice and now Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright a job early in her legal career. As Dame Sylvia noted, "It was the first time in my experience as a young lawyer that I had ever been employed without any comment being made on the fact that I was a woman ... the main thing was whether I could do the job or not. He was an outstanding lawyer."