In Memoriam

 
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In Memory of

Henry "Hank" Fairfax Henderson Jr.

March 8, 2018

Obituary

Henry F. Henderson Jr. Engineer and founder of industrial company, Port Authority commissioner and director on corporate boards Henry F. Henderson, Jr., 90, of Woodland Park, N.J., passed suddenly on March 8, 2018.

He is survived by his wife of 69 years, Ethel; his daughter, Kathy Carter; his son, Kenneth (Eileen); daughter Beth LaFountain (Fred), and six grandchildren, Evan, Brian, Erika, Danielle, Marshall and Melissa. He was predeceased by his son, David. Henry graduated from State University of NY- Alfred, with additional studies at William Paterson, Seton Hall and NYU. He held honorary degrees from Kean University, Stevens Institute and State University of NY.

He served as a commissioner on The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and also served on the Paterson Economic Development Corp., as chairman of the Essex County Economic Development Corp., and Regional Plan Association. He was a director on the General Public Utility Board, Delta Dental of NJ, NJ State Chamber of Commerce, Partnership for NJ, and Stevens Institute of Technology.

He started as an engineer at Howe Richardson Scale and in 1954 founded Henderson Industries. He was an accomplished pilot and had authored many articles on trade, education and affirmative action. He also was an avid fisherman. He served for many years as a volunteer for the West Paterson Fire Co. His funeral will be held at the Martin's Home For Service Inc., 48 Elm St., Montclair, N.J., on Sunday, March 25, from 3 to 6 p.m.

Published in Star-Ledger from Mar. 23 to Mar. 24, 2018

Visitation:
Sunday March 25, 2018
3:00pm - 6:00pm

Martin's Home for Service
48 Elm St.
Montclair, NJ 07042
973-746-2158
 


In 1983, the man sworn in as the newest commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey attributes his success in both business and public life to drive and a dedication to succeed.
''Drive is that which makes you work 12 to 14 hours a day,'' Henry Fairfax Henderson Jr. said in a NYT interview in his office here. ''It is taking calculated risks, analyzing them and saying, 'Yes there is a risk but if I am to achieve it, I must take that risk.'

''It is being prepared for failure and, if you do have a failure, of being able to minimize its extent and immediately strike out again.''

Mr. Henderson recalled some of his early failures and said that perhaps they were the best things that had happened to him.

In his first job after graduating from the State University of New York Agricultural and Technical Institute at Alfred, N.Y., in 1950, he said, he was turned down for a promised promotion because he was black. He left the company and, later, was rejected for a job that seemed tailor- made for him.
Those experiences, he said, made him determined to go into business for himself.
''Like all bad things,'' he said, ''it had a good side. If I had stayed (at the first company), I'm not sure whether I would have gone into business.''

He now heads Henderson Industries, which designs and manufactures control panels for atomic power plants and water treatment facilities and computerized weighing equipment. It also designs, makes, sells and services control systems, computers and robots for industry and navigational systems for the Army.

From its start as a one-man operation in a basement and garage on Rifle Camp Road here, the company has become, with 75 employees and annual sales of more than $8 million, one of the nation's leading minority- owned businesses.

Mr. Henderson's new role will put him on the board of the agency that owns the World Trade Center, operates airports, bridges and tunnels in the New York metropolitan area and runs the PATH lines. The bi-state authority also is becoming involved in international exports, an area to which Mr. Henderson will bring experience; he has traveled extensively to the Soviet Union and the Far East as a member of trade missions and as vice-chairman of the New Jersey District Export Council and as a small businessman.

The Board of Commissioners, which meets once a month and at other times when necessary, comprises 12 members - six from each state. They are appointed by the Governors of the respective states with the consent of the Senate of each, and serve overlapping six-year terms. The commissioners, who receive no salary, elect the board chairman.
Mr. Henderson, who carries his 6-foot, 200-pound frame with athletic ease, said that his drive to succeed had ''sort of put blinders on me.''

''When I set out a particular goal,'' he said, ''I make sure I attain it, if at all possible, and not get distracted or sidetracked by things that may have little effect on the end result.''

He said that at age 40 he decided he wanted to learn to fly. ''It was something new, a new adventure for me,'' he said. He got a pilot's license, then went on to earn a multi-engine license. In 1981, at the age of 53, he began flying the company's twin-engine Aztec.

Mr. Henderson, who is married and has four children - two are in the family business, one is married and raising a family and one is still in college - said that his business successes had given him the time ''to do some of the other things I've wanted to do.''

He is on an advisory committee of St. Vincent's School, a girls school in Newark, has worked with the Newark Board of Education on its aviation curriculum, has served on the advisory board of the World Trade Institute, an arm of the Port Authority, and is chairman of the executive committee of the Coalition of Northeast Governors.

After his father died recently, he started a scholarship fund for St. Vincent's students by having mourners contribute to the fund rather than send flowers.

Although he is an enrolled Republican and is active in politics - ''because I want to make New Jersey a better place in which to live'' - he played no role in Mr. Kean's gubernatorial campaign, he said, because he was overseas on a trade mission.

He said he saw state politics as ''somewhat separate'' from national politics, and he took issue with some Reagan Administration's actions, saying: ''I don't think we should use trade as a club over someone's head to get them to act in any way that our Government wants them to act.''

The relationship that the Port Authority developed resulted from Henderson being appointed as a commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 1983 by Governor Kean of New Jersey. Henderson was the first African-American to occupy this unsalaried position, and he used this opportunity to introduce new concerns, such as the development of venture capital investments for local business and efforts to further a policy of affirmative action for minority participation in business. Peter Goldmark of the Authority, who was impressed with Henderson's ability, praised him in the following manner: "He is a very pragmatic, very tough-minded man. He participates in all the difficult issues." Henderson was also appointed to head the Essex County Economic Development Commission, responsible for making capital more accessible to local businesses and attracting businesses into the area and establishing a successful resource network. It was an astute appointment because Henderson is deeply committed to the state of New Jersey.

On a personal level, Henry Henderson has received numerous distinguished awards: In 1985 he was named Small Business Person of the Year, and in the same year he was cited by the New Jersey Business and Industry Association as the Distinguished Business Citizen of the Year in 1986 he received the National Black MBA Association's award for outstanding contributions to the business community. He has achieved his overall goal of maintaining a solid reputation as a person who has been effective in helping minority entrepreneurs and all working people in the metropolitan New Jersey area to better themselves through his involvement in the Port Authority and other organizations that are helping businesses.

His zest for life continues as he approaches his later years, flying his private plane, and enthusiastically taking pride in his accomplishments. This is shown when he responded to a question about how he feels when he sees the huge Henderson industries sign above the headquarters' entrance each morning: "!t feels fantastic and I have to pinch myself.

 


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Last modified: Monday, March 26, 2018 08:13:36 AM