Douglas S. “Duck” Henry Jr. grew up in the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Nashville. In 1955, when the congregation voted to move to Oak Hill, Henry and his wife, Lollie, transferred their memberships to The Downtown Presbyterian Church, where Senator Henry maintained his membership for the rest of his life. Whenever Senator Henry attended church services downtown, he invariably sat in a pew near the back of the sanctuary or even in the balcony. It was hard for Senator Henry to be inconspicuous, however, as he was one of Nashville’s best-known and most respected citizens. Once, when asked if he was a Christian, Duck responded: “I know I am a Presbyterian. I don’t know if I am a Christian.”
Senator Henry received his primary and secondary educations at Parmer School, Wallace University School, and McCallie School in Chattanooga. Upon graduation from McCallie, at age seventeen, Duck enlisted in the U.S. Army and served during World War II as a first lieutenant. Upon discharge, he entered Vanderbilt, where, as an undergraduate, he studied French, Greek and Latin. He graduated with an LL.B. degree.
Proficient in Latin, Douglas would, after getting out of law school, exchange letters in Latin with Mr. Clarence B. Wallace, the beloved retired headmaster of Wallace University School with whom Douglas went to church.
After practicing law briefly and serving for two years in the State House of Representatives, Henry worked as an attorney at National Life and Accident Insurance, a company for which his grandfather, C. A. Craig, was principal founder, and where his father, Douglas Henry, was vice-president and general counsel until his retirement in 1961.
In 1955, while working at National Life, Douglas Henry Jr. was elected the the Tennessee House of Representatives. In 1971, he was elected to the District 21 State Senate seat, a position he held until 2014 after he declined to seek re-election in 2013. During Henry’s 42-year career in the Senate, he established himself as an old-school Democrat, a fiscal conservative, a leader in the Senate, and a statesman. He also endeared himself to his constituents in West and South Nashville and to his fellow senators for his integrity, financial acumen, environmental awareness, and compassion.
Douglas Henry Jr. was also a history student and a great believer in historic preservation. He was instrumental in the Senate providing the funding to establish Radnor Lake State Park. Without Duck’s passionate support, Radnor Lake State Park would not exist. Senator Henry was additionally instrumental in passing legislation to establish South Cumberland State Park in Grundy County, where he and his wife, Lollie, had a summer cottage in the Monteagle Sunday School Assembly.
Senator Henry, a beacon of trustworthiness, died March 6, 2017 at age ninety. He is survived by his children: Loiette Henry Thompson, Kathryn Henry-Choisser, Robert Selph Henry (Traci), Mary Leland Henry Wehner, and Douglas Cornelius Hume Henry (Ashley); his sister, Margaret (Peggy) Henry Joyce; thirteen grandchildren; and many great grandchildren.
~ Ridley Wills II
March 8, 2017
Senator Henry will lie in state in the Capitol with visitation in the House Chamber from 10am until 12noon on Thursday, March 9. A memorial will be held at Downtown Presbyterian Church on Friday, March 10 at 11am. He will be interred at Mount Olivet.