Press Release

NAACP Mourns Loss of Former General Counsel and West Virginia Civil Rights Pioneer

October 20, 2007

The entire NAACP family extends sincerest sympathy to the family of Herb Henderson and seeks to recognize and honor his dedicated work as former Association General Counsel and long-time leader of the West Virginia State Conference. Henderson died Tuesday evening at Cornerstone Hospital in Huntington, W.VA. He was 78.

“Herb Henderson was an NAACP stalwart who served in many, many ways,” said NAACP National Board of Directors Chairman Julian Bond. “He never claimed credit or boasted, but was always ready to let his works serve for him. His life was dedicated to the pursuit of social justice, and he will be much missed.”

As a young man Henderson enrolled in the U.S. Army and attended West Virginia State College. By 1958 Henderson had became the first African American graduate of the George Washington University Law School, which he completed in less than three years. He served as the Interim NAACP General Counsel in 1984, 1989 and 1990 and was president of the West Virginia State Conference of the NAACP for 20 years. 

“This is not only a great loss to the African American community, but to all the citizens of West Virginia,” said former NAACP West Virginia State Conference President James Tolbert who succeeded Henderson. “He was the one that represented the NAACP in the state through the ‘60s. He was very firm in pushing for equality and civil rights, made no compromises and did more to advance the NAACP in West Virginia than anyone. He took that work very seriously.”  

Henderson was the 1995 recipient of the NAACP William Robert Ming Advocacy Award, given to an individual in the legal profession who exemplifies the spirit of financial and personal sacrifice that Ming displayed in his legal work for the NAACP. [Ming was one of the architects in strategizing Brown v. Board of Education and other landmark decisions.]  Henderson’s legal victories included the desegregation of Marshall University, the opening of service to all at White Pantry and Bailey’s Cafeterias and a case that won the ability for black women to become state troopers in West Virginia.
In his community, Henderson assisted in securing scholarships for black law school students, was active in the Mountain State Bar Association and attended every West Virginia and national NAACP convention until falling ill this past summer. Among his many honors are the Justitia Offi cium Award, the highest honor of the West Virginia University College of Law; the T.G. Nutter Award from the West Virginia NAACP; and entrance into the National Bar Association Hall of Fame in 1998.

Visitation with the family will occur Sunday (Oct. 21) from 5-8 p.m. at Hall’s Funeral Home located at 625 State Route 775 in Proctorville, Ohio. Henderson’s funeral will be held Noon, Monday (Oct. 22) at the First Baptist Church located at 801 Sixth Ave., Huntington, W.Va. 25701. Memorial contributions can be made in the name of Herbert H. and Maxine D. Henderson to the West Virginia State University Scholarship Fund, 711 & 1/2, Fifth Ave., Huntington, W.Va. 25701.  

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization.  Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.