Douglas Henry

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Douglas Selph Henry Jr.
Member of the Tennessee Senate
from the 21st district
In office
Personal details
Born (1926-05-18)May 18, 1926
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
Died March 5, 2017(2017-03-05) (aged 90)
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Vanderbilt University
Profession Attorney

Douglas Henry (May 18, 1926 – March 5, 2017) was an American politician and attorney. He was the longest-serving member of the Tennessee legislature. He was a member of the Tennessee Senate, representing the 21st district (part of Davidson County). He served as a state senator beginning with his election to the 87th General Assembly, prior to which he was a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives during the 79th General Assembly. He was a proponent of education, children's welfare, and voting rights, and an opponent of abortion. He helped remove a portrait of anti-Confederate Governor William G. Brownlow and install a bust of Confederate Lieutenant General and early Ku Klux Klan member Nathan Bedford Forrest in the Tennessee State Capitol.

Early life[edit]

Henry was born on May 14, 1926 in Nashville, Tennessee.[1] He grew up in Belle Meade, Tennessee, where he was raised as a Presbyterian.[2] His grandfather was the founder of the National Life and Accident Insurance Co., and his father served in the Tennessee Senate.[2]

Henry was educated at The Parmer School, Wallace School, and The McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee,[3] and graduated from the Montgomery Bell Academy in 1941.[4]

Henry served as a member of the United States Army in the Philippines for over two years during World War II.[2][4] He received the Philippine Independence Medal.[1]

Henry graduated with a BA in French, Greek, and Latin from College of Arts and Science at Vanderbilt University.[1] He subsequently earned an LL.B from the Vanderbilt Law School.[1][2][4]


Portrait of Governor Brownlow by George Drury

Henry began his career a practising attorney and legal counsel to the family business, the National Life and Accident Insurance Co.[2]

Henry made an initial bid for the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1952, but he was unsuccessful.[4] He was first elected in 1954.[2] Henry was absent from politics during the 1960s, working as a corporate attorney for National Life Insurance Company.[4] Returning to the political arena in 1970,[2] Henry was elected 11 consecutive times to the Tennessee State Senate, most recently narrowly defeating challenger Jeff Yarbro in the 2010 primary by just 17 votes.[5]

Henry was opposed to abortion, even if the woman had been raped.[4] He supported "education, children's welfare, and voting rights".[1] In 1978, he helped pass a law for the mandatory use of child seat belts.[6]

In the 1970s, Henry smoked marijuana outside the state of Tennessee to experience it before he could vote on a decriminalization bill in the senate.[1]

Henry requested the establishment of a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, who served as a lieutenant general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War and later became the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, inside the Tennessee State Capitol in the 1970s.[4] Henry was successful, and the bust was still there by the time of his death.[4]

In 1987, Henry called for the removal of a portrait of former Governor William G. Brownlow from the state capitol, because Brownlow had denied voting rights to Confederate veterans for 15 years after the war.[4][7] Henry's request was honored, and the portrait left the premises.[4]

In 1998, Henry made sure Nathan Bedford Forrest's 25-foot statue would be visible from Interstate 65 by asking the state to clear the vegetation around it.[4]

When the Republicans became the majority in the state Senate in 2007, they called Henry the “chairman emeritus” of the body's Finance Committee out of respect. Despite being from the minority party, his views within the committee were given disproportionate weight.[1]

After his District was drastically altered by the Republican Legislative majority, Henry announced he would not seek re-election in 2014, instead opting to retire.[8][9] Yarbro, Henry's challenger in 2010, defeated current Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini in the 2014 primary and is the current Senator from the 21st District.[10]

By the time he retired, he was the longest-serving member of the Tennessee legislature,[2] with a 23-year record.[1] On his retirement, the State Comptroller of the Treasury, Justin P. Wilson, called him "a true gentleman."[11]

Personal life[edit]

With his wife, Loiette Hume "Lolly" Henry,[1] Henry had two sons named Robert Selph Henry and Douglas Cornelius Hume Henry, and four daughters named Loiette Henry Thompson, Kathryn Henry-Choisser, Mary Leland Henry Wehner, and the late Emily McMahon.[3] Lolly died in December 2016.[3]


Henry died on March 5, 2017, at his home in Nashville, Tennessee.[2][8] Shortly after his death, former Vice President Al Gore called him "a dear friend". Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam called him "a powerhouse intellect, courteous, kind, genuine and a statesman" and added "I will miss knowing that his wisdom and perspective are only a phone call away".[1]

Henry's body was to lie in state in the Tennessee State Capitol on March 9, 2017, which has not happened since Governor Austin Peay in 1927.[12] His funeral was planned to be held at the Downtown Presbyterian Church on March 10, 2017.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Mattise, Jonathan; Schelzig, Erik (March 6, 2017). "Former Sen. Douglas Henry, longest-serving lawmaker, dies". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 7, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Ebert, Joel; Garrison, Joey (March 6, 2017). "Douglas Henry, longest-serving member of Tennessee legislature, dies at 90". The Tennessean. Retrieved March 6, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Senator Douglas Selph Henry". Retrieved March 7, 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Hale, Steven (March 6, 2017). "Former Sen. Douglas Henry Dies at 90". The Nashville Scene. Retrieved March 6, 2017. 
  5. ^ Rau, Nate (August 9, 2010). "Douglas Henry defeats Jeff Yarbro in District 21 state Senate race". The Tennessean. Retrieved 11 August 2010. [dead link]
  6. ^ Duplantier, Wesley (March 6, 2017). "Seat belt law a part of Sen. Douglas Henry's legacy". The Tennessean. Retrieved March 7, 2017. 
  7. ^ "In Tennessee, Officials Fight Over Portrait". The New York Times. July 19, 1987. Retrieved March 6, 2017. 
  8. ^ a b "Douglas Henry, state’s longest serving lawmaker, dies at 90". ABC6. March 6, 2017. Retrieved March 6, 2017. 
  9. ^ Hale, Steven (May 8, 2013). "Sen. Douglas Henry Will Not Seek Re-Election in 2014". The Nashville Scene. Retrieved March 6, 2017. 
  10. ^ Wadhwani, Anita (August 7, 2014). "Jeff Yarbro defeats Mary Mancini in Senate District 21 primary". The Tennessean. Retrieved March 6, 2017. 
  11. ^ Wilson, Justin P. (May 17, 2014). "Tennessee Sen. Doug Henry is a true gentleman". The Tennessean. Retrieved March 7, 2017. 
  12. ^ Ebert, Joel (March 6, 2017). "Senate pays tribute to Douglas Henry on chamber floor". The Tennessean. Retrieved March 7, 2017.