Douglas Henry, Tennessee’s longest serving lawmaker, dies at 90

Courtesy: Tennessee State Library and Archives

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Douglas Henry, Tennessee’s longest serving political leader and lawmaker, has died. Henry, a Nashville native, passed away at his home shortly before Midnight on Sunday, his family told WKRN.

He served in the Army in World War II and got his start as an attorney after he graduated from Vanderbilt University. He was originally elected to the House in 1954 and the 90-year-old Democrat served Nashville’s District 21 from 1970-2014.

Henry retired in 2014 after more than four decades of service.

Colleagues call Henry a true statesman. Both Speaker Beth Harwell and Gov. Bill Haslam visited with Henry last week.

Gov. Haslam released a statement Monday morning.

One of the most fun calls I have been able to make as governor was a call in 2015 to Sen. Henry when we knew we would be able to put funding for the new state museum in the budget. Sen. Henry was a tireless champion of the museum, its mission and the importance of preserving Tennessee history for future generations. His dedication to the museum may only be surpassed by his commitment to the state’s financial strength. I was fortunate to be able to visit with Sen. Henry Friday, and I can attest that the state’s finances were still top of mind to him. He served the state for nearly 50 years, and it is not an exaggeration to say that he is one of the primary reasons the state is on such solid financial footing today. He was a powerhouse intellect, courteous, kind, genuine and a statesman, and I will miss knowing that his wisdom and perspective are only a phone call away,” said the governor.

Aubrey Harwell, a close friend of Henry’s and the head of Neal & Harwell PLC in Nashville, called Henry a “great man and good and honest public official with compassion and gentleness.”

U.S. Senator Bob Corker also released a statement.

I first had the opportunity to work with Doug Henry in the mid-1990s during my time as commissioner of finance, and I last spoke with him on Friday to tell him how much I thought of him,” said Corker. “He was a true gentleman and a true Tennessee statesman. No one focused more over a longer period on the fiscal issues facing our state than Senator Henry, and with a steady hand and wise guidance, he set a tremendous example of bipartisanship and integrity in public service. I will truly miss Doug’s friendship and will keep the entire Henry family in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) made the statement below:

“It is impossible to quantify this loss or even put it into words. To me personally, Douglas Henry was an invaluable mentor and a trusted friend. To the state of Tennessee, he was far more. Douglas Henry was our state’s financial guardian and protector. He always wanted what was best for his state, never for himself. A true gentleman, he was consistently kind and gracious to everyone. Whether you were a Republican or a Democrat, a prince or a parolee, Douglas Henry treated you with respect. The kindness he showed toward me—a young Republican member of the finance committee serving in a Democratic-controlled legislature—is something I will carry with me for the rest of my days. And I am not alone. Nearly everyone he encountered can share similar stories. No one could spend time with him without coming away with an overwhelming sense of pride about being a Tennessean, or overwhelming envy if they were not. Douglas Henry loved Tennessee with all his heart. He truly was a man with no equal. I will miss him and I will never forget him.”

Henry is survived by five children.

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