Any conversation related to people who have made significant contributions to Spruce Pine and Mitchell County will inevitably lead to naming S. T. Henry.
Smith Tompkins Henry Jr. was born April 9, 1881, in Bushnell, Illinois, about 150 miles east of Champaign, to S. T. Henry Sr. and his wife Mary Kimesia Cole, who died one year after S.T. Jr was born. S.T. was the youngest of 4 children (Charles, Edith, and Gracie) and graduated from Bushnell High School in 1897 then attended the University of Illinois where he ran track, was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, and graduated in 1904 with a degree in Municipal and Sanitary Engineering. It appears that he had considerable course work in English. Immediately after graduation, he moved to New York City and took a position as an assistant on the editorial staff of the Engineering Record, a McGraw Hill publication.
In 1910 he married Agnes McDougall who had attended the University of Illinois, completed a master’s degree at Berkeley, and taught school in California. They had their first child Kimesia Mary, named for S.T.’s mother, while living in Cleveland. A son, Stokes Tibbles, named for a member of Agnes’ family was born when they returned to New York.
S.T. had a brief yet brilliant career with McGraw Hill Publishing; however, he resigned as second vice-president and took the position as vice-president of Allied Construction Machinery Corporation. In 1918 he went to Cuba to expand their branch office in Havana, one of the many positions he filled before coming to Spruce Pine. He was a member of the Special Committee Visits for American Financiers to South and Central America, sub-committee chair of the 13th American Good Roads Congress, Executive Committee and the Bushnell Illinois then vice-president of the American Road Builders Association, member of the Mexican Group of the Inter-American Highway Commission, and several public gatherings of University of Illinois alumni over the years,
After coming to North Carolina, S.T. and Agnes were owners and co-editors of the Tri-County News. He was a member of the NC State Department of Conservation and Development Board, founding member of the Tri-County Development Association, Mayland Fair track coach, noted dairy farm innovator, advisor to a 3-volume WNC History book, ongoing consultant to McGraw Hill, NC representative to the Duke led south-wide Negro Employment Study, founder of the Carolina Theater with Henry Buildings Inc constructing it, proposer and advocate for the NC Minerals Museum, frequent contributor of mines and minerals news articles, development group and chair of open house for the Spruce Pine Community Hospital, advocate and lease holder for Spruce Pine Golf Club, Rhododendron Festival Queen judge, and other community efforts related to economic and quality of life development.
S.T. died March 30, 1957 and rests beside his wife in the Spruce Pine Memorial Cemetery. “Leader of men, editor, lover of nature, his guide the truth of holy writ”