Public Servant, Friend Honored by Rewarding Student Leadership

Henry Woods on his Soapbox (Razorback yearbook)

Henry Woods on his Soapbox (Razorback yearbook)

by Taylor Glover

Nearly 46 years ago, Henry Woods left his hometown of Hot Springs and began what would become his legacy of outstanding leadership at the University of Arkansas. He chose to major in journalism, and as editor of the centennial edition of the Razorback yearbook in 1972, Woods left his mark on campus. Many of his friends described the publication as "the best yet," "unlike any other” and "so 'Henry.'"

He highlighted the chorus of Those Were the Days, a famous song of the time, in the opening pages of the book:

Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance
Forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way
Oh yes, those were the days

Very much like the song, Woods also lived the life he chose.

“He sang, he danced, and for causes like civil rights, equal rights and human rights, he fought hard,” said his friend Skip Rutherford, dean of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. “For his family and friends, his devotion was unquestionable.”

While editor of the Razorback his office sat next to Rutherford’s, the editor of the Arkansas Traveler.

"He was a great friend, student dynamo and campus leader," Rutherford said.

Woods advocated for student involvement as an undergraduate. He participated in student government, the Arkansas union and the interfraternity council, and he was named to Who's Who Among American Colleges and Universities. He continued his efforts after graduation. He was an active member in the University of Arkansas Alumni Association and for several years, coordinated the activities of the Arkansas State Society in Washington, D.C.

“He was on occasion a thorn in the side of the administration, but also commanded a world of respect,” Rutherford said. “During his years in Fayetteville, he was a living legend.”

Following his graduation in 1973, he worked on several Democratic campaigns for the state legislature, U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate and President. With their Hot Springs connection, he counted among his friends, former President Bill Clinton.

He moved to Washington, D.C., where he had a distinguished 25-year career in government. He began on the staff of Representative Bill Alexander and later worked for senators David Pryor and Dale Bumpers. During his years of civic service, Woods dedicated himself to improving the quality of life for Arkansans.

"Throughout his years in Washington, Henry helped so many Arkansans," Rutherford said. "He also designed and developed the best student intern program in the United States Senate, and hundreds of Arkansas students have had the opportunity to participate."

More than 350 people are alumni of the program Woods developed. After helping Senator Blanche Lincoln set up her office, he decided to retire from public service in Washington and moved to Key West, Florida.

When he retired in 2000, friends and associates established the Henry Woods Student Leadership Award to honor his lasting impact at the University of Arkansas, the state of Arkansas and federal government. The award recognized a graduating senior at the University of Arkansas who has an outstanding record of student leadership. In 2012, the award was expanded to recognize two graduating seniors – one male and one female. The award provides a $750 scholarship to each student.

"It was so appropriate when the Student Leadership Award was created in his memory," said Jane Gearhart, wife of University of Arkansas Chancellor G. David Gearhart and a college friend of Woods’. “Henry was a leader in every sense of the word and did much to pave the way for our student leaders today."

From 1999–2010 Woods taught at the community college in Key West, was active in politics and was a strong supporter of the visual and performing arts.

"Both the regional theatres of the Washington, D.C., area and Key West, Florida, benefited from his talents," said Ann Pride, a college friend and associate on Capitol Hill. “He sang, he danced, he directed, he produced and he raised the money to support the theatres when it was needed."

His enthusiasm for active leadership in charitable work, island cultural life and local politics again won him much respect and many friends. The Key West Playhouse mounted a special production in memoriam to Woods and donated the proceeds to the award established in his name.

Throughout his life, he maintained a commitment to service.

"At his untimely death in 2010, it could easily be said of Henry that he packed more living in 58 years than most people would do in three lifetimes," said friend Ron Maxwell, Arkansas Governor’s Mansion Administrator during Gov. Mike Beebe’s administrations. "He was tireless, he was loyal and he was incredibly giving of himself."

Upon his passing, local publications in Key West wrote articles about his legacy.

When someone dies, it’s often said that he or she can’t be replaced. Henry Woods will be replaced. But it will be by many people – people he encouraged to take roles in government, to be involved in community activities. He taught them. They’re out there. They’ll succeed him. That’s what his life has been about.

~ Key West Citizen 2010

They are out there. Eddie Armstrong, Ben Beaumont, Dwayne Bensing, Tina Fletcher, Jordan Johnson and Autumn Lewis to name a few of the 17 students who have received the Henry Woods Leadership Award since its creation. Through the winners of this esteemed award, the alumni of his premier U.S. Senate internship program, those who followed his example in the arts and others, his legacy of public service and philanthropy continues.

Taylor Glover

About the author

Taylor Glover is a graduate student in the Department of Communication. She served as a communications intern in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences for the fall 2014 semester.