Gene Elijah Henton

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Gene Elijah Henton, 86, was a retired educator and civic leader.

He gained his angel wings on October 7, 2018 at Saint Bernardís Hospital in Jonesboro.

He was born September 8, 1932 in Blytheville to the late Pamp Henton and Lucille Murray and was a lifelong resident of Blytheville.

He was baptized at an early age and was a member of Wellspring Church. He was retired from the Blytheville School District and served on the Blytheville School Board for 22 years. He graduated from Richard Harrison High School in 1950.

Following high school, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps, serving for six years. After his tour of duty, he returned to the United States and went to Buffalo, New York where he worked for Bethlehem Steel. He loved the steel industry and even considered using his G.I. Bill to go to school and study metallurgy. However, most of his family was still in Blytheville so he decided to go to AM&N (UAPB).

He earned his bachelorís degree in Elementary Education in 1960. One of his professors at the college told him that there was a lack of men in the elementary education system and thought he had the fortitude and patience to be an elementary teacher. So, he returned to Blytheville and took a position teaching fifth grade at Franklin Elementary School.

He was the only male teacher on staff. Mr. Henton coached a basketball team, organized and trained a drill team for the schoolís marching bands and other events. He was transferred to the all-white Central School in 1967, four years before desegregation and was only the second black to be assigned to the school. He started working on his masterís degree at that time with the hope of becoming a principal and in 1971 he was selected to be principal of both Robinson and the old Lane School which stood where the Save-A-Lot on West Main stood.

Lane was eventually closed, and all the students were moved to Robinson School. Later he earned a masterís degree in education in 1972 and a specialist degree also in education in 1974, both from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. A tireless volunteer, Mr. Henton devoted himself to the betterment of his fellow man and his contributions to our community have earned him the admiration and respect of all those who knew him. He retired from the Blytheville School District in 1994 and was elected as a board member of the School District the same year. He served on the school board for 22 years until his health failed him.

His civil and community contributions were evident in his service. He was cofounder, national and local president of the Harrisonites Inc, he was a member of Phi Delta Kappa and the Retired Teachers Association of Mississippi County.

He served on the Civil Service Commission for 15 years, chairing the Commission twice. He was instrumental in organizing the Neighborhood Watch Program. He served as a board member on the Mississippi County Economic Opportunity Commission (MCEOC) and a policy council member of Head Start. He was also a candidate for Mayor of Blytheville in 1998.

He was preceded in death by his parents, a brother, George Henton and a sister, Freddie Mae Henton. He is survived by his wife, Jo Ann Henton, one son Kevin Henton of Dallas, five daughters Linda Henton of Albuquerque, NM, Jaqueline Lewis of Burlington, IW, Sherry Henton of Luxora, Jacqueline (Johnny) Shaw and Joy (Keith) Burks both of Memphis. A host of grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews and other relatives. Tinell Ridgnal, his first cousin, is the oldest living relative.

Funeral services will be conducted Saturday, October 13, 2018 at 1:00 p.m. at First Missionary Baptist Church, 600 E. McHaney; Rev. Odell Jones, pastor. Pastor Johnny Moore will deliver the eulogy and burial will follow in Memory Garden Cemetery. Visitation will be held Friday, October 12, 2018 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. two hours prior to the funeral at Wilson Funeral Home, 1020 S. Division, Blytheville. Wilson Funeral Home is in charge of services and arrangements.