Who was Porter Henderson?
Porter Wyatt Henderson, Sr. only completed the eighth grade, but he worked a lifetime to ensure higher education for future generations of West Texas youth.
Henderson was born 29 June 1901 in Burkett, Coleman County, Texas, the son of J.P. and Elizabeth Henderson. The family moved to Cross Plains, Callahan County, Texas where young Porter grew up and attended school. It was also in Cross Plains that he met and married Faustine Bond Butler, 21 April 1925.
After their marriage, the Hendersons moved to Brownwood. While in Brownwood Porter Henderson was a member of the famed musical organization, the old Gray Mare Band, playing the base horn.
Porter Henderson moved to San Angelo in 1936 to be the manager of the H.G. Whitaker Implement & Seed Store. He continued in this position until 1944 when he joined in a corporate venture with C.Q. Davis, Sr. and Lee Watson to purchase the Whitaker business. The corporation was dissolved in 1950 when Henderson bought out Watson. Then, in 1954 he bought the remaining portion of the business from Davis.
In the early days of the business, Porter Henderson and his partners traded for nearly anything in payment for equipment. The men had several pens around the area including one near Wall and one on Spring Creek for holding horses and cattle. Four-legged power was frequently traded in on new gas-powered equipment.
Porter Henderson served the agricultural community well in a number of positions: agriculture director of the Board of City Development, Director of the Upper Colorado River Authority (1948-1956), president of the West Texas Game & Fish Association, chairman of the Tom Green County Fall Fair and Race Meet, and supporter of the 4-H Clubs. In addition, Henderson won two soil conservation awards from the Fort Worth Press (1953, 1963). He was active in the Texas Hardware & Implement Association serving as President three times (1953, 1954, 1962) and as a member of the board of directors for eight years.
Service in other civic positions included the committee for the Community Chest drive in 1952. He was also involved in the San Angelo Parent-Teacher Association, was a member and president of the Rotary Club, and was a deacon and elder of the First Christian Church. During World War II Henderson served as chairman of the Tom Green County Ration Board.
Also, during World War II a lighter side of Henderson emerged as he worked to raise money for the war effort. Many a Concho Valley individual remembered Porter Henderson imitating Don McNeal’s Breakfast Club, a popular radio program of the day, in which he played the part of McNeal and auctioned cakes, hats or anything else that might raise money for the cause.
But for the ASU community, it was Porter Henderson’s untiring work as a member of the Board of Trustees for San Angelo College for which he is best remembered. San Angelo College, when first created, was under the jurisdiction of the San Angelo Independent School District. In the spring of 1945, the first Board of Trustees for the college was chosen for a six-year term. This body was created during the same election that established the college district.
The initial Board of Trustees consisted of Porter Henderson, Dr. George D. Morgan, Robert G. Carr, and R.R. Lowrence, all of San Angelo, J.T. Johnston of Water Valley, Herman L. Allen of Christoval, and Jean S. Johnson of Veribest. At the first regular meeting of the newly elected board, Porter Henderson was nominated as president of the board and elected by acclamation - a position he held for almost twenty years until his death 20 December 1964. Porter Henderson worked diligently to have San Angelo College changed to a four-year state-supported college - a change that took place less than a year after his death.
Longtime San Angelo College President, Dr. R.M. Cavness, once said of Henderson: “Mr. Henderson was a most unusual personality. As a board chairman I never saw his equal. He was quick to grasp the educational problems, and he was always concerned in the things that were to the best interest of young people.”
Concerning his tenure as president, Henderson said in a Standard Times interview: “The board operated smoothly, has disagreed and even had spiritedly debated various things, but we have always tried to keep the basic interests of the young people of West Texas in mind. We have been deliberate, studying our problems and determining the best course to take for our people before we reached the voting stage.”
Joe Henderson, a graduate of San Angelo College, said of his father: “Dad devoted a large amount of time to his work on the college board. He was always interested in seeing the college grow. During his tenure on the board, he seemed to stress developing the students’ moral qualities and character just as much as he emphasized the importance of giving them a quality education.”