John Brooks Henderson

John Brooks Henderson, (1826 – 1913)

Born near Danville in Pittsylvania County, Va., on November 16, 1826. Henderson was orphaned before his was ten years old and his family moved to Lincoln County, Missouri. He studied on his own as he was “bound out” to a farmer until his 18th birthday. Enduring firsthand an adolescent life of involuntary servitude, he beat the odds and taught himself the law. Soon (age 20) he had a practice and soon after (age 22) he was a state legislator.

Henderson soon accomplished numerous appointments and honors in the state legislature and court system, and was commissioned a brigadier general in the State militia in 1861. By this time he had amassed a personal fortune from land speculation, banking and road construction interests.

Missouri as a slave and border state teetered on the brink of secession, but John Henderson would not hear of it – and was considered by many as the greatest opponent to secession. As a result he was appointed and subsequently elected to the United States Senate as a Unionist to fill the vacancy caused by the expulsion of Trusten Polk. Henderson was at Lincoln’s side at his second inaugural and escorted the President in the march to the inaugural platform outside the capital.

Henderson’s career as a Senator was distinguished – highlighted by his writing the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery – and with his introduction in the senate. Henderson was one of the advocates of the clause in the 15th Amendment which stated that the right to vote should not be denied on account of race, color, or previous conditions of servitude.

Henderson had many contacts with President Lincoln in life – then in death with his appointment to the Congressional Delegation at the Lincoln funeral. Perhaps Senator Henderson’s most unpopular act as a statesman was when he voted for the acquittal of President Johnson on his impeachment charges. Henderson’s voting decision cost him re-election to the US Senate and for all practical purposes ended his political career in Missouri.

Henderson moved to Washington D. C. where he died on April 12, 1913 – and is buried in Brooklyn, N. Y.

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