Willie Henry

Background

On July 31, 1946, Willie Henry, a veteran of World War II who had seen service in the Pacific and likely suffered from post-traumatic stress, was killed by police officers in Helena, Arkansas, where he was visiting from Chicago. On the day in question, Henry was seeking to board a bus to a neighboring county. He approached an agent of the Brocato Bus Line at the terminal in Helena, requesting the price of a ticket. The employee stated two different prices, and Henry questioned the disparity. A white male in the terminal, angered because Henry had questioned a white employee, struck the veteran across the face with a piece of pipe.

Henry fell to the ground and was picked up by two men. Not realizing that the men were trying to help him, Henry ran a half block from the bus station and jumped into a concrete ditch for safety. Helena officers Jones and J. C. White yelled that Henry should come out of the ditch. Frightened, Henry stated, “I won’t come up for you to beat me to death.” The officers fired two warning shots. Officer Jones then fired directly at Henry. The shot entered Henry’s left side and emerged at the right hip. Henry died three hours later.

Legal Status

No action was taken against Officer Jones or Officer J.C. White. James Henry, Willie Henry’s brother, wrote a letter to the NAACP requesting review of the case. There is no indication that the Association took further action.