The Football Writers Association of America is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2015. Founded in 1941, the FWAA has served the writing profession and college football during a time when the world has changed greatly and the sport of football has along with it. In an effort to tell the stories of the members of the organization, we will publish sketches of the FWAA’s most important leaders — all Bert McGrane Award winners.
The Bert McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, is presented to an FWAA member who has performed great service to the organization and/or the writing profession. It is named after McGrane, a Des Moines, Iowa, writer who was the executive secretary of the FWAA from the early 1940s until 1973. The McGrane Award was first bestowed on an FWAA member in 1974.
For a list of all the winners go to: http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/mcgrane/index.html.
The following is the 23rd installment of the Pillars of the FWAA series. Orville Henry was the 2002 winner of the Bert McGrane Award. Thanks to FWAA member Gene Duffey for writing and researching this sketch.
By Gene Duffey
Even the toughest of times seemed to work out the best for Orville Henry.
With World War II raging in Europe and the Pacific, and many newspapermen serving overseas, Henry was named sports editor of the Arkansas Gazette in October 1943 at age 18 for the sum of $32 a week.
Butch Henry, the oldest of Orville’s four sons, said his father suffered from a stomach deficiency that made him 4F, ineligible to serve in the military. Orville couldn’t eat regular bread or gluten.
Orville grew up on the edge of Little Rock, the fourth of nine children and the son of a traveling salesman. He began working for the school paper in ninth grade at Pulaski Heights Junior High. His school ran a program that allowed students to volunteer at the Gazette. He finished high school at 16 in January 1942 and went to work as a copy boy at the Gazette, filling in at the switchboard.
Henry worked at the newspaper full time while continuing his education at Little Rock Junior College, which is now Arkansas-Little Rock. He graduated from the junior college at 18.
Butch remembered his father coming home for dinner, then returning to the office to put out the next morning’s newspaper, often not getting home again until 2 a.m. But Orville was up at 7, cooking breakfast for his four boys, often his special apple pancakes.