James Wallace Henry

February 26, 1922September 23, 2012

James Wallace Henry was born in a wood frame house in the Standifer Gap of Hamilton County on February 26, 1922 to John and Margaret Henry. He grew up at the Humane Society where his dad and mom were responsible for the welfare of people and animals alike.

The greatest event in Dad’s life was the several nights he spent at Warner Park in the winter of 1932, listening to the great American revivalist, Dr. Mordecai Ham. Dad said he could feel the flames of hell calling him to be saved as he walked forward in that great tent down a trail of sawdust and gave his life to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Also at this time he joined Troop B, 109th Tennessee National Guard Cavalry Regiment, just a little early as he was just 14 years of age but was six feet tall. For all you military history buffs and cavalry aficionados, he was the captain’s “dog robber.”

He found his love of sports when he attended City High School beginning in 1938. He made All-City tackle there for the Dynamos. He found the love of his life in a fine young Christian woman, Nancy Harris, daughter of Mr. Keith and Mrs. Pauline Harris. They met in homeroom together because of the alphabetical organization of homerooms by last name.

Graduating in 1941, he got a scholarship to play football at Georgia Tech where he played for two years before World War II. From his time in the Guard and junior ROTC at City High School, he readily entered the Army Air Corps where he served as a navigator instructor and gained a new appreciation for astronomy. In 1944 after Nancy finished her degree at Carson-Newman College, they were wed on August 22 of that same year.

After being discharged from the Army Air Corps, he returned to Atlanta with his beloved bride and re-enrolled at Georgia Tech on the famed G. I. Bill. He graduated and returned to Chattanooga with his sweet wife and one addition to family, born, February 18, 1948, William (Bill) Keith Henry. He was better known as “Little Henry” at City High in the ‘50s.

Yes, City High School once again entered into Dad’s life. He sat in the stands and watched the Maroon and White take a drumming. His heart was moved so much that he went home that night and told Nancy that he was going into school teaching and coaching. He called Colonel Creed F. Bates and was hired to teach math and to coach. Later on Colonel Bates made him Dean of Students and finally Assistant Principal. During this time he earned his Master’s Degree at the University of Chattanooga.

The Superintendent of the Chattanooga City Schools, noting Dad’s success in all fields related to the leadership of a school, encouraged him to get his doctorate in education. For the three years he worked, taking a sabbatical and living on the Knoxville campus for two quarters while earning his degree. He wrote his dissertation on a new type of school that evaluated students by skills and not general grades in a subject. He used the design system of the Navy’s Polaris missile program to develop both the building and the curriculum for the Chattanooga City Schools. In 1963 the new school was completed and was named Dalewood Junior High School and he became its first principal. His pioneering curriculum and school have now become standard for great schools and teachers. Along with his new job came a new addition to the family. Mark Wallace Henry was born on April 11, 1962.

In a short time however, City High School, now high on hill in North Chattanooga, was in need of a new principal. And the dream of his life came true. He replaced his mentor and friend, Colonel Bates. He loved those years even though he missed the old Third Street campus. He really enjoyed having some of his old staff around, even one or two teachers who had been his instructors as a high school student. His blood really ran a deep red, a maroon if you will.

The city of Chattanooga began to look for a new superintendent, someone from the inside for a change, who knew the town, who had the respect of his colleagues, who could lead the system in the racially charged years of the 70’s. The name selected was Dr. Jim Henry. From 1970 through 1978 he sat in the hot seat, seeking to do what was right for all students but to effect change in such a way as to keep the change from being a major disruption to the education of those same students. The times and courts would not allow his measured, incremental plan to be implemented but forced major changes “over night.” The history of the change, the impact on the students and community may never be fully known. The only thing that can be known is the pain that many suffered under the court-ordered plan.

He retired in 1978 with accolades from many in the city and state, and planned greater activities at church, in his garden and on the golf course. He became an avid walker/runner and did some 5K and 10K runs. I was impressed by the amount of Scripture that he memorized while running, as well as memorizing various hymns. His favorite was “Amazing Grace,” learning all six verses.

But retirement did not sit well with him. With Nancy still working at Brainerd High School in Guidance, he was home alone, feeling like he had more to offer. He went to see his old assistant principal and coach from City High, Jim Phifer who was now principal of Notre Dame High School. He was hired to teach math, which he loved and found himself back in the saddle again. He loved, taught, inspired and occasionally disciplined students just as he had all along his career with love and good cheer but taking no lip from the arrogant. He would often walk to work from his home in Brainerd, over Missionary Ridge, teach a full day at Notre Dame and walk back home because he loved the exercise.

But then came the time when Nancy retired and they retired together basically. They settled down to a peaceable life of gardening, going to American Legion meetings or Freedom Foundation meetings and other civic activities. For a number of years they hosted Faith Bible Church (a home church pastored by his son, Bill) in their home three times a week. And for those same years God gave them a life with grandchildren, two by Bill and his wife, the former Miss Jan Bedwell: Andrew and John. Mark had three with the former Miss Shannon Perry of Murfreesboro and they had Olivia, Greg and Matt. They also enjoyed the gift of great-grandchildren from their grandson John, who married the former Miss Katy Mills of Hixson: Ethan and Ava. They had wonderful times of travel and friends while keeping family a priority even as time and distance began to make separations. Amazing that this man with all of his honors, titles and awards, considered his most prestigious award the name “Daggy” given by his grandchildren.

After seeing his beloved wife of 64 years go on to heaven in 2009, he moved to Ooltewah to live with Bill and Jan until the Lord called him home September 23, 2012, at the age of 90. Having been resting peacefully for three days, Johnny Humphreys, City High Class of 1957 and a deacon at Calvary Bible Church where Jim was now a member, and Johnny’s wife, Debbie, were about to leave his room at Memorial Hospital. Alone with him in the room at that moment, Debbie held his hand; Johnny prayed. Dad’s eyes opened in recognition of their presence, a smile graced his lips and he passed on into Glory. How sweet must it have been the next person he saw, our beloved Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Then Heaven rained down its joy as he beheld his Nancy and all his other family and friends who had preceded him to this Place of no sorrow, suffering or sadness.

If my dad could talk to you today, do you know what he would say? He would tell you that his dying was just a transition of his soul from a life marred by sin to a life perfected in Christ. He would tell you that each of us is eternal from the day of our birth and that the only question that gives meaning to this life, that you have to answer is this: Do I want to spent an eternity with Jesus and Jim Henry in the place of perfection, joy and peace or do I want the hopelessness in a life of endless torment. He would tell you, it is not God who sends a person to heaven or hell; it is a person’s choice.

And here is the good news, the Gospel. All one has to do is first, acknowledge you are a sinner, doomed to eternal hell because justice demands punishment. Then you have to place your trust in our Lord Jesus Christ that His death, burial and resurrection demonstrated that Jesus paid the price for your sins (your punishment and mine). Finally, you tell Jesus you repent (change your mind) about running your own life and you turn your life over to Jesus for Him to lead and guide you.

If Jesus has spoken to your heart as you read this biography of Jim Henry, honor him, bless yourself, and glorify God by praying, asking Jesus to save you right now. Please call his son, Bill at 423-505-5790 or his son, Mark at 615-631-3707, letting them know that you have asked our Lord Jesus Christ to save you.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16)


  • Funeral Service Monday, October 1, 2012
  • Visitation Sunday, September 30, 2012

James Wallace Henry

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Jim McCullough

October 5, 2012

Jim Henry has been a part of my life since I started in Education. After reading of the strong religious influence I can understand why he could always seem to do and say the right words. I know he is now at peace and I feel a loss that cannot be filled.

Jane Goodwin

October 1, 2012

He was a great man. I had him as a teacher, Principal (when he stepped into Creed Bates shoes) Class of '57 and as a Principal whenI taught the first year of New City.

September 30, 2012

Your dad was a gracious, honorable, and caring individual--such a blessing to our community. Our thoughts and prayers are with your family as you celebrate the life of this wonderful man.

Phil Smith

September 30, 2012

So long Coach. I will always remember with a grateful heart all that you did for me.

CHS '61

Charlie Cooper

September 29, 2012

I have great memories of Dr. Henry. My first ones were made at NDHS where I had him as a math teacher. I remember him walking to and from school everyday. My brother also had him at City High. I later became reacquainted with him again thru Mark when we were both members of Lambda Chi. He was always friendly and a joy to be around. My prayers are with the whole family.

September 27, 2012

I knew Coach Henry while a CHS student and varsity athlete. I respected him as a man who provided a fine and admirable example for young men and women, while remaining a fine and true friend. Whether he was energetically coaching football, helping our CHS team thriough some rough patches, chaperoning house parties at Ocoee, or administering discipline with a firm and fair hand, he was appreciated, admired, and ultimately loved. To see and chat with him in later years at reunions was a treasured privilege. To coin a much used phrase, I like the world a lot less without Jim Henry.
Godspeed, Coach
Number 14
CHS '59.

September 27, 2012

I will miss Jim... I enjoyed many wonderful conversations with him at the Harris family reunions! Ellie DeLong Johnson, Chattanooga

Corky & June Howland

September 27, 2012

May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.

Kathy Wadman

September 27, 2012

My deepest condolences to Bill and Mark. I worked with your dad at Notre Dame High School. He was the ultimate gentleman and kind soul. He was a great guy.

September 26, 2012

Bill and Mark:
The Cooper families have always been a friend to tthe Henry family. Jim and I shared many a time on the golf course with Jim and others. May God bless all of you at this time. I am home bound now with good help too.
Bill Cooper and family