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NAACP Leader Alberta Henry Dies at 84

By , | Posted - May 12th, 2005 @ 7:52am



SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Alberta Hill Henry, a longtime leader of the Salt Lake branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, has died at 84.

Henry, who had been diagnosed about a year ago with cancer, died Wednesday at a hospice where she had been since Saturday, her family said.

"She was a primary and strong mover here in the community for many years," said the Rev. France Davis of Calvary Baptist Church, Henry's pastor and friend.

Henry's daughter Julia Leyba said her mother was "just a very strong person, a pillar of the community, an advocate of civil rights."

Jeanetta Williams, president of the Salt Lake NAACP branch, said, "We are saddened to hear about her death, our condolences go out to her family. She was very dedicated to the NAACP and the civil rights movement."

Henry served as president of the branch for 12 years. She also served on the chapter's board of directors and as youth adviser.

In 1967, she established the Alberta Henry Education Foundation, which has helped hundreds of underprivileged students pay for college.

Henry served on more than 100 boards and committees, including the Utah State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the United Way, Utah Endowment for the Humanities, and the Black Advisory Board to the University of Utah.

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said, "She lived a life worth emulating and always stood tall in championing basic human dignity."

Henry worked for five years at the Headstart Day Care as head teacher and parent coordinator. In 1972, she was hired as a minority consultant for the Salt Lake City School District and later became community relations coordinator. She retired in 1986.

When textbooks left out the history of minorities in Utah, she pushed for minority inclusion in the curriculum. She also established the Black Honor Society, later renamed the Rainbow Honor Society, to help black students improve their grade point averages.

"She was very instrumental in making sure districts treated minority kids well, and instrumental in the hiring of minority teachers," said Archie Archuleta, chairman of the Utah Coalition of La Raza, who worked with Henry at Salt Lake City School District.

Henry was born in Louisiana and moved with her family to Topeka, Kan., in 1923. She graduated from Topeka High School in 1939.

Henry moved to Utah in 1949, working as a housekeeper because no one would hire a black woman for a professional position. In Kansas, she had worked at a movie theater, as a taxi cab radio dispatcher and as co-manager of a cafe.

In 1953, she joined the Pilgrim Baptist Church and started working on racial discrimination in housing and public accommodation. In 1961 she was elected president of the Utah-Idaho Baptist Association Missionary Department and traveled throughout the district.

She took courses at the University of Utah and earned a bachelor's degree in education in 1980.

"I wanted to show the students that I did know their problems," Henry said. "I have over a three-point average and I tell them, 'If I can do it, so can you.' "

Funeral arrangements were pending.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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