Obituary: Gary Wayne Henderson / Ex-Peabody athlete, active in Pittsburgh politics

June 26, 1944 - Jan. 14, 2014


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Gary Wayne Henderson, a former athletic star at Peabody High School who made two runs for the Democratic Party nomination for mayor of Pittsburgh, died Tuesday at his home in East Liberty. He was 69.

Mr. Henderson was a 1963 graduate of Peabody, where he earned all city honors in two sports: basketball and baseball. He attended Wichita State University on an athletic scholarship. He later transferred to the University of Pittsburgh.

He had worked for both the Allegheny County Housing Authority and Allied Barton Security. He had been a Democratic Party committeeman for about 20 years.

He ran for his party's nomination for mayor in 1989 and 1993, losing both races in a large field of candidates. Sophie Masloff was the winner in the 1989 primary race and Tom Murphy won in 1993. Both went on to win the general election.

Mr. Henderson, who was black and Protestant, likely made the biggest stir in his political career in 1993 when he announced that he would not seek the Democratic Party endorsement because the city committee was "a social club for Catholics." Mr. Henderson was a Methodist.

Asked to elaborate, he amended his position to say that city voters never had elected a black mayor. He told a Post-Gazette reporter he wanted "the Democratic Party to look at it and say maybe we should have an affirmative-action program to promote more blacks."

A longtime family friend, Craig Stevens of Wilkinsburg, described Mr. Henderson as a man who got along well with many different kinds of people. "He was a good guy," Mr. Stevens said.

Mr. Henderson was the son of the late George and Alice Henderson. Survivors include a sister, Maria Pryor, of Greensboro, N.C., and a brother, Anthony.

Visitation will be 1 to 3 p.m. Monday at the Spriggs Watson Funeral Home, 720 N. Lang Ave., Homewood. A funeral service will immediately follow.


Len Barcousky: lbarcousky@post-gazette.com or 724-772-0184.


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