Robert C. Henry

From Ohio History Central
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Robert Henry was mayor of Springfield, Ohio, from 1966-1968

In 1966, Robert C. Henry became the first African American to serve as mayor of a city (Springfield) in the State of Ohio and in the United States of America.

Robert C. Henry I was born July 16, 1921 in Springfield, Ohio, a son of Guy and Nellie (Reed) Henry. He attended Springfield High School and graduated in the class of 1939. He attended Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio and Cleveland College of Mortuary Science in Cleveland, Ohio where he graduated with honors. He received an honorary Doctorate of Law degree from Central State University. He served his country in World War II in the United States Army. In 1951, Mr. Henry opened the Robert C. Henry Funeral Home in Springfield, which his three children still owned and operated at the start of the twenty-first century. He was elected and served for ten years on the Springfield City Commission. He was mayor of Springfield from 1966 to 1968 and became the first African American to serve as mayor of a city in the United States. He served on many civic and political committees, including on the Clark County Board of Parks, the Metropolitan Housing Authority, the Springfield Urban League, and the YMCA. Mayor Henry was chosen by President Lyndon Johnson and also President Richard Nixon to go on fact-finding missions to Vietnam. Robert C. Henry I died on September 8, 1981. He was sixty years old.

Throughout much of Ohio's history, most African Americans were unable to seek and hold significant political power. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s began to change the attitudes of many Ohioans. The fact that Henry became a mayor of an Ohio city reflects the advances that had been made by the late 1960s.

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