Sen. Douglas Henry, Southern gentleman, dies aged 90

Sen. Douglas S. Henry III, who served longer in the state legislature than anyone in Tennessee history and in doing so gained a reputation as the epitome of a Southern gentleman and a staunch fiscal conservative, died Sunday, aged 90, in his Nashville home.

From The Tennessean:

A product of Belle Meade, Henry was first elected to a House seat in 1954 before being elected to the Senate in 1970 to represent Nashville’s District 21.

The longtime chairman of the Senate’s Finance, Ways and Means Committee, Henry served in the Senate for 44 years, developing a reputation as a guru in state finances. He left the state legislature in 2014, but remained a presence at the state Capitol and continued to draw the respect of current lawmakers.

His death came less than three months after the passing of his wife of 67 years, Loiette “Lolly” Hume Henry. She died in December. Henry had been ailing for weeks, prompting visits in recent days from his closest friends.

Some tributes:

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally:

“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.”

Gov. Bill Haslam:

“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.”

House Speaker Beth Harwell, from The Tennessean report:

“He was just one of the finest men I’ve ever known… “A lot of people talk about ethical behavior in politics. He didn’t have to talk about it, he personified it.”

Former Gov. Phil Bredesen, also from The Tennessean:

“If I had one word to describe Senator Henry, it would be ‘gentleman.  If you gave me two words, they would be ‘Southern gentleman.’ With three, ‘Southern gentleman senator’ … “At its worst, politics is becoming every day more of a coarse and self-serving activity. But today, we should pause a moment and remember it at its best: gentlemanly, respectful and generous — the way Senator Henry practiced it every day.”

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander:

“There was no one in the Tennessee General Assembly who demonstrated integrity, courtesy and financial stability more than Douglas Henry. To him, party politics were of no importance. The citizens he served were what mattered. His example will be important for years to come.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (excerpt from news release):

“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.”

House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh:

“My few words cannot convey the impact of Senator Henry.  His wealth of knowledge, understanding of the essence of state government, impeccable character, love of his family and fellow man, and genteel manner set the highest bar.  He allowed me to be his friend and to learn from him.  Our family is thinking of his.”

House Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Stewart

“Senator Doug Henry was absolutely in the progressive tradition in creating and maintaining strong enduring governmental institutions, protecting them from corruption and ensuring that they were properly funded.” 

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