Tom Henderson, as a member of the 1960 Anna-Jonesboro Community High School football team. File photo from The Gazette-Democrat, September, 1960.Friends and classmates of the late Tom Henderson who gathered last week for a celebration of life at StarView Vineyards near Cobden included John Davis, Dr. Jerry Goddard, Ron Knupp, Berry Ziegler, Bill Ballard and Terry Brown. Joe Reppert participated via Zoom.Tom Henderson

Remembering Tom Henderson

‘One of the finest backs’ in history of A-JCHS football

Friends and former teammates of early 1960s Anna-Jonesboro Community High School football standout Tom Henderson gathered last week to share special memories.

Mr. Henderson died on Thursday, June 24, in Texas. He was a 1961 graduate of A-JCHS. 

During his senior year at A-JCHS, Mr. Henderson, a 6-1, 190-pound halfback, played on a Wildcat football team that finished the season with a 7-3 record.

The Wildcats opened their 1960 with a 14-6 win over Johnston City. An account of the game from The Gazette-Democrat recalled that A-J scored the win behind a “strong running attack led by Tom Henderson,” who rushed for 140 yards. 

“He was hard to tackle and he could run fast,” A-J football teammate Bill Ballard, now a local attorney, recalled.

Mr. Henderson rushed for 201 yards on a “rain soaked gridiron” when A-J defeated Du Quoin 26-6 in the Wildcats’ fifth game of the season.

In their next game, A-J outscored Metropolis 26-2. “Tom Henderson and Ron Knupp provided the offensive punch for the ‘Cats as they totaled 226 yards in 21 carries,” The Gazette-Democrat reported. Knupp was a senior halfback for the Wildcats.

A-J closed out the 1960 season with a 33-6 win over Cairo. Mr. Henderson again led the way for the Wildcats: “Tom Henderson was the big gun for the Wildcats as he scored four touchdowns while gaining 133 yards in 19 carries.”

In the Dec. 1, 1960, edition of The Gazette-Democrat, writer Bill Mangum offered a look back at the Wildcats’ season:

“The Wildcats, coached by Gerry Hart, enjoyed a fine season in winning seven of ten contests. They finished fourth in the tough Southwest Egyptian Conference race with a three and three record.

“Tom Henderson, one of the finest backs in A-J history, enjoyed a banner year by gaining 1056 yards on the ground. He also passed for almost 500 yards and gathered in an aerial himself for an additional 42. Henderson, averaging 6.2 yards per carry, led all Wildcat scorers with 115 points on the strength of 18 touchdowns and 7 extra points.”

Mr. Henderson played in four sports during his high school years – football, basketball, track and baseball.

He served in the U.S, Navy and U.S. Naval Reserve.

He played football at Southern Illinois University and attended training camp for the Canadian Football League’s Calgary Stampeders.

Mr. Henderson served as a police officer for much of his working career, starting in Washington, D.C., and finished his career as a crime scene investigator and chaplain in North Richland Hills, Texas. 

He completed his Ph.D. at Louisiana Baptist University. He was an ordained minister in the Baptist church and later in the Evangelical Free church, serving as Pastor at New Beginnings Church in Quincy for 14 years. 

He loved his family, friends and football. He competed in national power-lifting competitions and owned a gym, Fort Worth Health Club, in the 1980s. His faith was a central part of his life and he enjoyed sharing Christ with others, and was a member of Christ Chapel Bible Church. 

He was preceded in death by his parents; and by two brothers, Joe and Bill Henderson. 

Survivors include his wife of 36 years, Ann House Henderson; daughters Lauren Henderson Terry (Peter), Shannon Lee Becerra (Frank) and Kimberly Sue Niles (Kip); a brother, Bob Henderson and wife, Jackie; seven nieces and nephews, along with their children; four grandchildren, Bradley and Travis Niles and Kelsie and Haley Becerra; and three great-grandchildren.

Funeral services  for Mr. Henderson were Friday, July 2, in Texas.

The Gazette-Democrat

112 Lafayette St.
Anna, Illinois 62906
Office Number: (618) 833-2158
Email: news@annanews.com

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