Former World Editor,
Civic Champion, Dies
Almost Spanning a Half-Century,
Paralleled Growth of Tulsa
The Tulsa World
Monday, December 10, 1962
Norris G. Henthorne, whose life was intimately connected with The Tulsa World and the city of Tulsa for nearly 50 years, died at 10:34 p.m. Sunday in St. John's Hospital. He was 71.
Henthorne, noted for his civic interests in Tulsa's parks, aviation, and health, had been ill since January 1960 when he retired as president of the World Publishing Company and editor of The Tulsa World.
A member of Oklahoma's Hall of Fame, Henthorne was one of the titans of journalism in Oklahoma and the Southwest.
He started his career with The Tulsa World in 1913 when he joined this paper as a bookkeeper, but, as he put it, really functioning as a handyman, keeping books, handling want ads and taking subscriptions. In this "handyman" capacity, Henthorne participated in an early-day World milestone when he signed up the paper's 10,000th subscriber.
The man who handled both editorial and business projects for the World with equal facility was born at Ironton, Ohio, March 22, 1891. Born in modest circumstances, Henthorn, as a youngster, held a series of jobs that nowadays has the ring of glamour from another era. However, in those days they were humble jobs but, in his case, led up.
As a small boy, Henthorne's first job was with an Ironton blacksmith who paid him $1 a week to help around the shop. His most responsible duty was to shoo flies from the horses while the blacksmith shod them.
Between the ages of 10 and 12, Henthorne was a newspaper carrier.
Warren G. Harding, lieutenant governor of Ohio and later President of the United States, appointed 13-year-old Norris Gifford Henthorne to his first, and only, political post. He became a page boy in the Ohio state Senate. Henthorne served three terms as a page, gaining an insight into politics at an early age.
As a teen-ager, he worked on the crew of an excursion steamer plying between Cleveland and Chicago. In 1908, Henthorne, then 19, went to Columbus, Ohio to take a job with the Union National bank. When the bank was closed by federal action in 1911, he embarked on his life-long newspaper career "by accident." He went to work for a Columbus printing house getting his first taste of the publishing business.
In March 1913, he migrated to Oklahoma. He came to Tulsa chiefly because an older brother, Clifford Henthorne, lived here. Shortly after he arrived, he met Gladys Roberts, another native of Ohio. Born at Findlay, the soon-to-be Mrs. Henthorne had moved to Bartlesville in 1904. They were married in Tulsa in 1914.
Henthorne served on the Tulsa park board for more than 30 years, serving as its president in 1920, 1921, 1922 and from 1933 to 1958 when the board's park and airport functions were divided.
Following the split, Henthorne became chairman of the Tulsa Airport Authority, a post he resigned early this year. Always aviation-minded, he was one of the leaders in creating Tulsa's new $10 million airport, one of the nation's finest.
Due to poor health Henthorne was unable to attend the dedicatory dinner for the new facility in November 1961. He listened avidly via telephone which linked the ceremony to his home at 1543 S. Yorktown Place. He retired from his Tulsa airport authority post in May of this year.
Henthorne and the board members were credited with being primarily responsible for one of the most important things that ever happened to Tulsa -- the acquisition of the American Airlines modification center.
Tulsa became a city of parks during Henthorne's long tenure on the board. One of the most spectacular contributions was the wading pool program which provided pool facilities for small children in almost every part in the city.
In the 1920's, Henthorne and E. Fred Johnson, president of the Fourth National Bank and a longtime park board member, interested oilman Frank Reed in the park program. Through their efforts, Reed built the first wading pool here and established a $100,000 trust fund with which to build pools over the state. The fund has constructed nearly 50 pools in Oklahoma, including several in Tulsa.
Two years ago a new eight-acre park at 48th St. and Quincy Ave. was named Norris G. Henthorne park in recognition of his long and fruitful service.
Henthorne, who became editor of the World in 1932 and president of the World Publishing Company in 1950 -- the year after former owner-publisher Eugene Lorton died -- kept up a steady flow of outside activities in addition to his newspaper duties.
He served as a member of the Will Rogers Memorial Commission from the time he was appointed by the late Gov. E.W. Marland in 1938 until his death. He served as chairman of the commission for more than 20 years.
Henthorne, a 1918 charter member of the Kiwanis Club, served as it president in 1920 and was on its board of directors for four years.
Another area of active service in Henthorn's life was his connection with the Tulsa Public Health Association. He was president of the organization from 1921 to 1940. He became a director in 1941 and was appointed a life-time director in 1949. Henthorne's health service dated as far back as 1918 when he was chairman of the dispensary committee of the anti-tuberculosis committee of the Tulsa County chapter of the American Red Cross.
Henthorne, a former director of the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, was especially interested in the organization's highway committee, serving first on the panel in 1936.
During World War II, Henthorne was chairman of the Oklahoma State War Council, a civilian assistance group.
Activities he engaged in over the years were diverse. In 1930 he was named to a special Oklahoma commission to study ways of reducing illiteracy in the state. In the 1950's he was a member of former Gov. Roy J. Turner's citizens advisory council which directed the expenditure of a $36 million bond issue for the expansion and improvement of state mental institutions.
Henthorne, a trustee of the Southwestern Art Association, a Mason, and a member of Southern Hills Country Club, was honored for lengthy service in the newspaper field in 1958 when the Tulsa Press Club name him a "Headliner," the organization's highest honor. Two years later, in January 1960, he wrote "30" to his career, stepping down from his posts at the World after an association of 47 years.
Henthorne also had served as president of the Oklahoma Press Association.
He is survived by the widow and four children and five grandchildren.
The children are:
- Norris G. Henthorne Jr., 2750 S. Evanston Ave.;
- John R. Henthorne, 3737 S. Evanston Ave.;
- Charles Thomas Henthorne, 4100 E. 61st St.;
- Mrs. Fred L. Lewis, Denver, Colo.
Services are pending with Stanleys Funeral Service. Burial will be in Rose Hill Mausoleum.
(Article included a photograph - furnished by Bill Henthorn, Enid, OK)
Posted: 25 Sep 2009