James M. Henderson | Legacy of Leadership Profile

James M. Henderson (1921–1995)

Jim Henderson founded Henderson Advertising as a one-man agency in 1946, guided its growth into one of the top agencies in the Southeast, and put Greenville on the national advertising map. 

He served as chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Henderson Advertising, Inc., for 40 years, retiring in April 1986. He continued as a member of the agency's board of directors and was also involved in other business ventures until his death in 1995.  

James Marvin Henderson was born March 28, 1921, in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Isaac Harmon and Ruth Ashley Henderson. He attended Clemson University and graduated from the University of Denver with a degree in advertising. He also did postgraduate work at New York University and completed the Harvard University Advanced Management Program.

He began his business career as a sales supervisor and sales and promotion executive with General Foods in New York and Denver and later was associated with a Denver advertising agency for two years.

A United States Army veteran of World War II, Henderson formed his own agency in August 1946 with $500 borrowed from his wife. In a 1993 interview with The Greenville News, Henderson said he never doubted he would succeed, but doing so took a little longer than he had expected. 

Texize Chemicals, now Dow Brands, was one of the agency's first accounts and was the mainstay of its business for many years. When Henderson was just starting out, Texize was a young company selling industrial cleaner to textile mills. Henderson persuaded Texize founder and Greenville businessman Jack Greer to package the cleaner for consumer use, thus giving birth to Texize Household Cleaner. 

Ralph Callahan, who succeeded Henderson as chairman and president of Henderson Advertising, said in an interview that Henderson would probably best be known for putting Greenville on the national advertising map.

That distinction came in 1980 when Henderson Advertising became the first ad agency outside of Chicago or New York to be named Advertising Agency of the Year by Advertising Age magazine.

"That's as good as it gets," Callahan said. "The man was truly a legend. He is responsible for putting South Carolina and the Southeast on the national agency roster. He established the competitiveness of the advertising business in the Southeast.

"He was a great leader, a great motivator, a man who stuck to his principles, no matter what," Callahan said. "He built a great legacy for us."

When Henderson retired in 1986, the agency had 120 employees and $100 million in advertising billings, and was ranked among the top one percent of agencies in the Southeast.

At the time, Henderson said he hoped the company would stick to two of his policies, a ban on cigarette advertising and the policy that forced him out, mandatory retirement at 65. After stepping down, he kept an office in one of the Henderson buildings, where he worked on real estate projects.

Henderson was active in the Republican Party at both the state and national levels and served as assistant postmaster general during the Nixon administration. While assistant postmaster general, he persuaded the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the astronauts to photograph the moon for the first moon stamp. More than 140 million moon stamps were sold.  

He was a candidate for lieutenant governor of South Carolina in 1970. In 1972, he was state chairman of the Committee for Re-Election of the President. South Carolina led the nation in the percentage of registered voters who actually went to the polls that year.

Henderson received many honors. He was named Greenville Young Man of the Year in 1954. He won the Advertising Federation of America's Silver Medal Award in 1961. The Sales and Marketing Club presented him the South Carolina Salesman of the Year Award. A member of the Chief Executives Forum, he was membership chairman in 1974. He also served as treasurer and regional chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

He was president of a number of civic and community organizations, including the Greater Greenville Chamber of Commerce and The Kiwanis Club. Henderson served two terms on the board of Spoleto Festival USA and brought Piccolo Spoleto, a miniature version of the Charleston event, to Greenville to provide more enjoyment of the performing arts in the Piedmont area.    

Henderson also served on the boards of Citizens & Southern National Bank of Greenville and First Federal Savings and Loan. He was a member of the board of trustees of Converse College and served on the advisory board of the College of Commerce and Industry at Clemson University.    

He was married to the former Donna Baade, and they were the parents of two daughters, Mrs. Arthur M. (Linda) Lucas and Mrs. James W. (Debbie) DeMint, and a son, James M. Henderson, Jr. He was a member of Buncombe Street Methodist Church.

Jim Henderson died November 2, 1995.

He was inducted into the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame in 1989.    

© 1999 South Carolina Business Hall of Fame