Tennesseans Honor Late Senator Douglas Henry At The State Capitol

Mar 9, 2017

Tennesseans paid their final respects to former state Sen. Douglas Henry Thursday, as the Democratic lawmaker was laid in state at the Capitol. It's a rare honor that's been afforded fewer than a dozen times in the building's 150-year history.

Scores of mourners were on hand as an honor guard opened the doors to the legislature's ceremonial lounge. Henry's body lay in a casket draped with the Tennessee flag. Behind it were three more state flags, flanked by the American flag and the official flag of the General Assembly.

Among the first people to pay their respects was former House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh. The West Tennessee Democrat served with Henry from 1974 to 2012. Naifeh recalls hammering out details of the state budget with Henry, often in the legislature's cafeteria.

"That's the kind of man that Senator Henry was, where it was all open to the public, and there was nothing behind the scenes with Senator Henry."

A portrait of former state Sen. Douglas Henry on display as his body lay in state at the Tennessee Capitol.
Credit Chas Sisk / WPLN

Also on hand were Henry's fellow members of American Legion Post 5. One of the post's past commanders, John Furgess, says Henry was a champion for veterans.

"He loved Post 5. We all loved him. His father was one of the founders of our post. His father was a World War I veteran. And after, World War II, when Senator Henry joined our post, there were 8,000 members in American Legion Post 5, one of the largest in the nation. And he's been loyal all these years later."

Furgess says Henry frequently supported education and employment measures helpful to veterans. Henry served in the U.S. Army during World War II, primarily in the Philippines.

Legislative leaders asked to place Henry's body in state. He's believed to be the first Tennessean to receive the honor in nearly nine decades.