Former LHSAA commissioner Tommy Henry, who served Bossier High as a teacher and coach from 1963-75, died Friday in Baton Rouge. He was 84.
Henry ruled the LHSAA for 24 years bringing the statewide high school organization into the forefront and making it a strong entity for governing the 300-plus high schools in the state. The Alexandria native and Northwestern State graduate engineered unprecedented growth after being named the LHSAA’s third commissioner in 1983. The LHSAA’s financial reserves ballooned from $40,000 to $1.5 million during his tenure, according to his biography on the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame site. He instituted the Superdome Classic football championships in New Orleans during his first year as commissioner.
Bossier Schools assistant superintendent Jason Rowland said he was shocked to hear of Henry’s passing. He had received a “Happy Thanksgiving” text from his longtime friend Wednesday evening.
“Tommy Henry brought the LHSAA into the modern era by putting the championships in one site,” Rowland said. “He was a strong leader – a visionary – who set up a great model for the LHSAA.”
As commissioner of the LHSAA, Henry was a polarizing figure as have been his predecessors. Public school administrators, coaches and fans often felt he wasn’t doing enough to control the private schools, and private school supporters sometimes felt he was too involved in their business.
“That’s what leadership is – the higher your level, the fewer friends you have,” Rowland said. “It’s a matter of where you sit as to how you view things. Tommy was adamantly against the split, and he was very outspoken on it.”
Benton resident Hal Fulghum played baseball for Henry at Bossier from 1970-74 on teams that lost twice in two years - both losses in the Class 3A state championship game.
“Tommy Henry was way ahead of his time as a baseball coach. It was amazing some of the stats we put up playing for him,” Fulghum said. “Coach Henry was all about the kids. He sent me a text on Thursday wishing me a happy Thanksgiving, then passed the next day.”
Henry is credited with establishing a scouting and critiquing program for football and basketball officials, creating a hardship eligibility and appeals program and oversaw the rewriting of the LHSAA handbook in 1991-92.
One of his greatest gifts might have been the establishment of the LHSAA’s Scholar-Athlete program that recognizes academic success by athletes in all sports. He also added boys and girls soccer state championships along with track and field events for physically challenged athletes.
Rowland played baseball at Pearl River Community College with Ty Henry, Tommy’s son, and that allowed Rowland to maintain a close relationship with the Henry’s over the years.
“Tommy loved, loved baseball and he had breakfast every Monday morning with Paul Mainieri and he had some stories to tell from that,” Rowland said. “He would tell Mainieri where he should be playing certain players and things like that. I’m not sure how much attention Mainieri paid to him, but it was entertaining listening to it.”
Jimmy Watson covers Shreveport-Bossier area sports. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @JimmyWatson6.
This article originally appeared on Shreveport Times: Former LHSAA commissioner Tommy Henry dies at 84