In Memoriam: William R. Henry (1925-2010)

I saw this letter to the editor from Nicholas Davis, Emeritus Professor of Architecture at Auburn, in the Clarion-Ledger a week or so ago, about the recent death of Mississippi architect William R. Henry:

I was most saddened recently to hear of the death of William Robert Henry, FAIA, architect, who lived and practiced in Jackson from the early 1950s until the late 1990s.

His office was close to mine in Fondren, and we often had lunch together. He was several years my senior and was very helpful in getting me over the difficulties of beginning practice.

I never knew another architect so idealistically devoted to his profession. In addition to being excellent technically and aesthetically, he was totally devoted to the welfare of his clients and the quality of their buildings, going far beyond the absolutely necessary time and attention to refine the tiniest details.

But I think his most valuable gift to the profession was honesty and integrity. He would never give money to politicians to get commissions.

He followed the standard AIA fee schedule to the letter. And when the state sneakily tried to lower the official standard fee while he was AIA president, he pressured all state architects to refuse to sign any of the cheaper contracts. This cost him dearly in the eyes of the state, but he never complained.

Nicholas D. Davis, F.A.I.A.
Emeritus professor of Architecture
Auburn, Ala.

Davis, as you may recall from last fall’s post “An Architectural Bonanza in the Clarion-Ledger,” was the architect of the house in Jackson’s Woodland Hills neighborhood that has five trees growing through the roof.

I have searched in vain for Henry’s obituary, so in lieu of that record, I have to rely on a much older and less personal record from the 1962 American Architects Directory by R.R. Bowker, available in pdf. form on the AIA website:

HENRY, WILLIAM R(OBERT), JR. AIA 54. Mississippi Chapter
+ William R. Henry, J r , P.O. Box 4626, Fondren Sta, Jackson 6, Miss.
b. Vaiden, Miss, Feb. 4, 25. Educ: Harris Art Sch, 1 1/2 yrs, 42; Ga. Inst, of Tech, B.S. & B. Arch, 52. Arch, Jay T. Liddle, AIA, Archt, 6 y r s . Present -Firm: William R. Henry, J r , AIA, Archt, org. 58. Reg: Miss. Gen. Types: 1,2,8,12,18,19. Prin. Wks: AGC Off. Bldg, & Volkswagen Dealership Bldg, Jackson, 59; Livingston Pk. Shop. Ctr, J, & A & P Super Market, Pensacola, Fla, 60; Gen. Elect. Supply Co, J, 60; (2) 1st Fed. Savings Brs, J, 61. Gov. Serv: USN Seabees, CM2/c, 43-46. AIA Act: Sec, 60; P r e s , 61.

First Federal Bank, Meadowbrook Branch, Jackson (thanks to Carunzel for finding this advertisement)

From this, we find that Mr. Henry was born in Vaiden in 1925, which means perhaps he graduated from Vaiden High School. I’m not familiar with Harris Art School, so maybe he had moved away from Vaiden before he finished high school. Like most architects of his generation, Mr. Henry served in the construction and engineering branch of the military, in his case, the Navy Seabees, whose motto, “Can Do” my own father taught me at a young age. Returning to civilian life, he graduated from Georgia Tech’s architecture school, where fellow Mississippians Charles Barlow, James Chastain, Fred Harrison, and Carl Matthes, Jr. may have been his contemporaries.

William Henry's office on N. State Street in Fondren, shaded in gray

Moving to Jackson after graduation, Henry worked for 6 years with Jay T. Liddle, whose house in Woodland Hills I admire, and whose firm in the 1950s designed the Mississippi Highway Patrol Headquarters that you can see on the west side of I-55 if you’re not watching the road as you exit the waterworks curve.

Henry set up his own practice in Fondren, my neighborhood. As far as I can tell, his office until at least 1970 was in a converted house on N. State Street, a lot that has now been subsumed into the Fondren Corner building. While here, he designed a building that I’ve wondered about for a while but never knew its history until now, the old First Federal Savings Bank Branch at the corner of Meadowbrook and State Streets. He also designed an almost identical branch bank building at the Westside Plaza.

Of the other buildings listed in the 1962 directory, I tracked the Volkswagon dealership to the 800 block of Terry Road, but when I visited the location, I found that the entire block has been subsumed into the JSU sports complex. City directories also revealed that the General Electric Supply Co. was located on S. West Street in Jackson–a visit found a string of warehouse type buildings of unknown age, so I’m not sure if that building survives. Otherwise, I’m afraid I’m woefully unable to list any other buildings by William Henry. Maybe someone out there who knew him better can point out some others to show off his work.

old First Federal Savings Bank branch (1961), now Hallmark Cleaners, corner Meadowbrook and N. State Streets, Jackson



Categories: Architectural Research, Banks, Jackson

29 replies

  1. Thank you for this, E.L. You know he’s one of my favorites

    By the way, he was the editor of the Mississippi architect, the magazine of the Miss. AIA for many years in the sixties, which may be one reason why we don’t have more buildings by him.

    In the last years of his practice his office was in a four-plex apartment building at 1330 N. State St. in Jackson. The present owner stated to me that he bought the building from Mr. Henry [I can’t remember when, sometime in the last couple of years]. I think that he designed that building, but I have no evidence. At any rate, it is a wonderful late mid-century with beautiful paneling in the foyer. The apartments are very small, but similar in size to Canizaro’s on Poplar St. I was smitten with this little building when driving home one day I caught a glimpse of it’s masonry screen (I had been checking out the glass block on the Jackson Brace and Limb Co. next door).

    I really wish there was more info on Mr. Henry’s designs. He seems to have been a wonderful person in the profession and, from the little I’ve seen and deduced, a talented architect. Thanks again, E.L.!

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    • Oh, and I should have mentioned, that as editor of the Miss. architect, he wrote some editorials in which his character and professionalism really shine.

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      • He must have been editor after the first few years of Mississippi Architect–I’ve only seen I think from 1971-74, in which Joe Weilenman is editor.

        Thanks for all this information though–it really helps give a better picture of Mr. Henry as an architect and as a man.

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        • I just checked WorldCat (here on my school computer), and there are a number of libraries other than MSU with at least partial runs of _Miss. Archt._ :

          *Ole Miss has vols. 6-14 (1975-84)
          *So. Miss: not specified
          *Miss. Univ. for Women: at least vol. 1 (1970- ); not specified after that

          Also, LSU has scattered copies from 1971-85; U. of Colo. (?!) has vols. 8-14, and U. of Houston has vols. 11-14.

          I enjoy your blog very much!

          Richard Wright
          Texas A&M Intern’l. Univ.

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          • “CORRECTION:
            We apologize to both Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe for misspelling their names … in the last issue of THE MISSISSIPPI ARCHITECT. At first we thought we might let it go hoping that our readers would think that we were referring to two obscure Greek architects, but decided that too many people would wonder how two Greeks got into the Bauhaus.
            So, we’re sorry Walter and Mies (alias Istopius and Ixies), forgive us.” –Fall 1977

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        • Well this answers why I thought MS Architect started in the 1970s, if Volume 1 is 1970. They must have started over, or maybe they didn’t have volume numbers when Henry was editor in the previous incarnation.

          Thanks for that information, Richard, and welcome to MissPres!

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          • Nope, no volume numbers in the ’60s. It was also just “Mississippi architect” as opposed to “The Mississippi architect” in the ’70s.

            And, to clarify, the Miss. Dept. of Archives and History seems to be the only place that has these ’60s issues. Here are the contents as added to the catalog record yesterday:

            March 1963: Architecture is your business / Bob Henry ; First Federal Savings and Loan Association, Jackson, R.W. Naef and Assoc., M.T. Reed Construction Co. — April 1963: Competence / Bob Henry ; Hinton Hall, Perkinston Junior College sciene building, William R. Allen Jr., Lloyd K. Grace, Willis T. Guild Jr., Associated Architects — May 1963: John Doe, A.I.A. / Bob Henry ; Lafayette County Jail, Oxford, Brewer, Skewes and Godbold, A.B. Cullen and Son, Powell Brothers, Warren Electrical Co. ; Tom Biggs advanced to rank of Fellow — June 1963: “Blowing a horn is hot work” / Mrs. L.A. Ogletree, Harry Haas ; Mr. and Mrs. Sam Reid residence, Jackson, Jay T. Liddle — July 1963: The challenge / Bob Henry ; Architect’s office, North State Street, Jackson, Joseph Russell Perkins — August 1963: That ugly word– beauty / Bob Henry ; West End Elementary School, Meridian, Robert B. Clopton — Sept. 1963: Engineers and architecture / Bob Henry ; Calvary Baptist Church, Meridian, Dean and Pursell, Glascock Inc. — October 1963: Choose with care / Bob Henry ; Lyle Cashion Company office building, Jackson, Jones & Haas, Ken Bottorf, Clyde Maxwell, Briggs & Lambeth — Nov. 1963: We build with confidence / Bob Henry ; Mr. and Mrs. Fred LaRue residence, Jackson, Biggs, Weir and Chandler — Dec. 1963: When the architect, client swap places / Harry Haas ; Neshoba Co. General Hospital, Philadelphia, Charles G. Mitchell, Perry Construction Co. — Jan. 1964: Computer-designed architecture? / Harry Haas ; Hattiesburg Clinic, Stephen H. Blair Jr. — February 1964: Point of view / Harry Haas ; Gulf Towers Inc. apartment building, Biloxi, Barlow & Plunkett, Howie Construction Co. — March 1964: How much will your building cost? / Edward F. Neal ; South Hills Municipal Branch Library, Jackson, Godfrey, Bassett & Pitts — April 1964: Place, time, architecture / Edward F. Neal ; Howard Memorial General Hospital, Biloxi, Landry & Matthes — May 1964: The language barrier / Edward Neal ; Gulde Methodist Church, Rankin Co., Clemmer & Clark, R.D. Moon — June 1964: Architect’s or client’s building? / Edward F. Neal ; Gilfoy School of Nursing, Mississippi Baptist Hospital, Jackson, Overstreet, Ware, Ware & Lewis — July 1964: Amory Middle School, Biggs, Weir, Chandler, Neal and Chastain, E.W. Riley Construction Co. — August 1964: Put your architect to work / Bob Henry ; Motor Bank of Commercial National Bank, Greenville, M.L. Virden III — September 1964: Art gallery needed / Bob Henry ; Moss Point Municipal Building, H.F. Fountain Jr., A.W. Head, Ralph Marion — October 1964: I.T.T. Kellogg communications plant and office building, Corinth, John L. Turner & Associates — November 1964: The package deal / Bob Henry ; Jackson Co. Center, Mississippi Gulf Coast Junior College District project, William R. Allen Jr., Grace and Guild, Magnanos & Young, Joe A. Allen, Dr. C.C. Colvert — Dec. 1964: With faith we build / Bob Henry ; Architects’ office, Jackson, Cooke-Douglass-Farr — February 1965: River Hills Country Club, Jackson, T.N. Touchstone Jr. & Associates, Fran Builders — March 1965: Sameness / Bob Henry ; Whitten Junior High School, Jackson, R.W. Naef & Associates.

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          • Wow, thanks for that treasure-trove of information, Carunzel! I can see that we are simply going to have to get permission to re-print these articles. I assume that MS AIA holds the copyright? Let’s see, who do we know around here who has influence in the MS AIA? Thinking, thinking . . .

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            • I don’t know about influence — but I do know who to call. I will check into it.

              Thanks Carunzel for this GREAT information.

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  2. Mr. Henry was a wonderful and supportive architect to others in the profession — a real gentleman. He was a positive role model to many. He will be missed.

    Are the Mississipip Architect articles available anywhere online? I had no idea that he was editor of the Mississippi Architect magazine…

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    • Thanks for sharing that, Belinda–it sounds like I should know Mr. Henry and his work better than I have until now.

      No, to my knowledge the Mississippi Architect magazines aren’t anywhere digitally. I have heard through the grapevine that the MSU Architecture Library recently got a full set donated, and if true, that’s the only full set I know of. MDAH has a number of scattered issues, but not a full run as far as I can tell. Maybe Carunzel can track down Henry’s editorials and we can see if we’re allowed to re-print them here.

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      • We (MDAH) have March ’63 to March ’65, during which time Henry was the editor (we also have the ’70s issues). I’ll try to make copies for you; one of the buildings profiled is the Woodland Hills house by Davis! I imagine there are copyright issues, but perhaps the Miss. AIA could be persuaded to give permission to use?

        That was very interesting about the Wongs! By the way, there is another yearbook, from 1951 when Henry was a senior, here:

        Click to access 1951%202%20Grads%20&%20Seniors%20pt.%201.pdf

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        • Well, there you go again telling me something I didn’t know–I thought I had the first few years of MA, starting in 1971, but now I hear they started much earlier? Was there a hiatus after Henry, or did I just miss the boat entirely? I guess I could answer these questions by seeing what MSU’s “full set” includes.

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  3. William R. (Bob) Henry was my Daddy. I have been reading your blog, seeing many familiar old places and recognizing many names. I would also love to see the articles from Mississippi Architect. I don’t remember seeing copies when we moved them here. Daddy was especially known for his integrity, his “hands on” approach, and his bow ties! He was a carpenter as well as an artist. I remember staying up with him in his father’s shop, helping him make a mural for one of the first liquor stores opened in Jackson that he designed. The mural was designed to obscure the view of the contents of the store in order to comply with city ordinances. ( He used that time to explain to me his beliefs on drinking.) I remember him working on the State Hospital at Whitfield, what used to be Hinds Junior College, schools, churches, houses, and a lot of banks. These old buildings, blogs about Natchez and different parts of Jackson brought back many memories. Thank you.

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  4. Bob was also my father. I am his oldest daughter. When we told Mother about this she was excited and honored that you are talking about her best friend and one true love. The were married for just less than 60 years. His death has been a blow to us all, friends and family alike. We would be interested in learning what you have found and in possibly helping you. He was a very special man and will be missed by many.
    As my sister stated, we didn’t find these articles and Mother is very interested in seeing them.

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  5. Thanks to you both for passing along your memories of your father–from your comments as well as others here and in the newspaper, it sounds like he was a man who touched the lives of many for the good. My own father is a builder and woodworker, in addition to being an engineer, and I also have many fond memories of hanging out with him in his shop watching him create beautiful objects and just talking with him about life and such

    As for Mississippi Architect, we’ve gotten permission from the Mississippi AIA to post those here on MissPres, but they were apparently published under the auspices of Construction News, which is now owned by McGraw-Hill. We’ve contacted them and are awaiting their permission. I can’t post them publicly until then, but I have started scanning them and can send them to you as I finish them via e-mail, if you’d like. They are very interesting, not only for the light they shed on Mississippi architecture and architects of the 1960s, but also for the national articles that they printed. I’m excited about the possibility of re-printing them here to make them available to our readers.

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  6. I would love to receive those articles via e-mail if it is not too much trouble. I have been pouring over your site! It is really interesting. We will be, over the next few months, going through my father’s plans. I believe the School of Architecture will be taking some of them. They have asked for anything representative of his career.
    Your site has peaked my interest once again in Mississippi Architecture. What a bonus!

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  7. That’s great news to hear that MSU will be taking your father’s plans. Mattie Sink Abraham is great to work with and so knowledgeable about the state’s architects. I’m also glad to hear you’ve gotten reinvigorated about Mississippi architecture through the blog–comments like that make it worth all our time.

    As for the Mississippi Architect issues, I have just today gotten all the permissions I think I need to post them on MissPres, so I’m planning to move forward with that beginning next week, posting them in serial form every few weeks as I get them scanned and compiled. Once they’re posted here you can download them at your leisure, or if you’d prefer, I can send them to you by e-mail. Right now I have I think 4 compiled into pdfs, by which I mean, I’ve scanned each page as a jpg image and then cleaned them up a bit and put them into a pdfs that will be all one document for you the reader.

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  8. I would also like to have the articles. This is amazing and heartwarming to see the interest in my father. A little piece of history. The family moved from Vaiden two weeks after Daddy was born. He graduated from Durant High School. I don’t know a lot more but Mother does and I think she would love to talk to anyone who is interested.

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  9. Well that’s an interesting little fact–so he must have graduated from the building up on the header above? I wonder if being in high school when that building was constructed gave him an early love of architecture and the construction world?

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  10. Hello Mr. Malvaney,

    You probably wouldn’t know me, but I am the youngest daughter of Edward F. Neal, and stumbled onto this page. I noted with great interest the reference to those old articles, and seeing Daddy’s name in there, I am wondering, if anyone gets those archived articles to surface, if there is a chance I might be able to get copies of any that Daddy was involved with. I know that my siblings would be really happy to see these.

    Like the architectural community, we lost Daddy way to early, and any threads from his life that we recover are glad tidings.

    Hoping you are well.
    Best regards,
    Elizabeth

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  11. So glad you found the page, Elizabeth–welcome! Good news–we have gotten permission to scan and reprint the 2-year run of Mississippi Architect, and I have started that process. I’ve created a page especially for the magazine at https://misspreservation.com/msarcht, and here you can find links to the first two months that I’ve already published, along with the tables of contents for each. If you click on the month (March 1963), you’ll see a pdf of the entire magazine, and I notice that your father was listed as an editorial advisor even at that early stage. I’ll be publishing the rest of the series in intervals of one every two or three weeks, so you might want to check back in here or just subscribe to the e-mail list.

    Any information about your father that you would like to share here would also be welcome!

    Like

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