James T. Henry Jr., a former Philadelphia Fire Department captain, died on Saturday, June 1, 2019. He was 79.
He was born on Aug. 23, 1939. He was the youngest of four children born to the late Vanderbilt Henry and Daisy Henry. He was educated in the School District of Philadelphia and graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School. During his formative years, he grew up in the heart of North Philadelphia as a resident of the Richard Allen Homes. Decades after moving away from Richard Allen he would return for annual reunions.
Henry was an advocate for education. He family said he would suggest to anyone who would listen that having education serves as a springboard to a world of opportunity. He furthered his educational career in multiple ways. Henry enlisted in the U.S. Army where he studied military justice, code of conduct and emergency medical care. He was honorably discharged from the Army after serving for three years.
Henry joined the Philadelphia Fire Department. He mentored young firefighters, recruited new firefighters and taught at the fire academy.
He and his wife, Rita, were married for more than 52 years. Two children were born to their union.
Henry attended school while he worked full time and provided for his family. He earned an associate’s degree from the Community College of Philadelphia and a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in government administration from the University of Pennsylvania. He was able to accomplish these goals before he retired with the rank of captain from the Fire Department.
Henry later worked for the federal government at the Veterans Administration and then at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), where he retired in 2002.
He enjoyed spending time with his family, friends and colleagues in the city and the federal government.
“James had an infectious laugh which served as a trademark for his stellar personality,” his family said in a tribute.
“He was an intelligent man. He was a gentleman’s gentleman. James was well versed on current events, history and his cultural heritage. He could discuss any topic, with anyone, at any time.”
Henry was a member of the Knights of Peter Claver, where he served the Catholic Church as a leader, mentor and friend to many. He earned the title of Sir Knight James T. Henry Sr. (Fourth Degree).
He earned countless awards and recognition for his achievements from his places of employment and church organizations. He worshiped at Saint Barbara’s Roman Catholic Church for many years, until he was no longer able to manage the travel. He subsequently joined the Saint Cyprian Roman Catholic Church and continued to practice his faith until his passing.
He was preceded in death by his parents; sister, Shirley Cain; nephew, Edward “Tony” Cain; and cousin, Madeline Ballard.
In addition to his wife, he survived by: his daughters, Tracy L. Henry and Cynthia Cheatham; son, James T. Henry Jr.; grandchildren, Samiya L. Henry, James T. Henry III, Lottie E. Henry, Jacob A. Henry and David Cheatham; sister, Dorothy Franklin; nephew, Eric Franklin; brother, Vanderbilt Henry Jr.; nephew, Vincent Henry; nieces, Vanessa Henry and Monica Henry; sister-in-law, Marie Lowman; brother-in-law, Alfonso Powers; and other relatives and friends.
A memorial service will be held June 22 at 10 a.m. at Saint Cyprian Roman Catholic Church, 525 Cobbs Creek Parkway.