By Joseph Green-Bishop
Texas Metro News Correspondent
The family of Reeves Henry, an accomplished blacksmith, philanthropist and inventor who lived in Forney, TX until his death in November 1930, will get its wish when Forney officials unveil the historical marker recognizing his contributions that their relative made to the city, and its residents.
Jimmy Malone, a great-grandson of Henry’s who was born in Gregg County in 1859, said that members of his family had urged city officials in Forney for more than 30 years to pay tribute to Mr. Henry, whose business interests made him one of the wealthiest residents in Forney during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
“We expect that the marker will be unveiled this summer,” said Malone, a former supervisor at Dallas Area Rapid System (DART). “We are terribly excited that this struggle is finally coming to an end. There is a marker on the site in downtown Forney that notes that my great-grandfather repaired the first gas powered car in the state. But there is no mention of his name.”
The manager of the Spellman Museum of Forney, Kendall Nobles, said that the marker would make residents of the city proud of the many contributions that Henry made to the quality of life in their city. Among his inventions was a cotton chopper that separated seeds from the plant.
“Mr. Henry was known throughout Forney as a mechanical genius and a great inventor. An approval notice was received by the city of Forney in February of this year. Among other accomplishments, Mr. Henry repaired the very first gas powered horseless carriage in Texas in 1899, she said.
“The Henry marker will be the second in Forney dedicated to the contributions of prominent African Americans,” said Ms. Nobles. “It is very important to our community. Our board of directors is grateful that the Malone family contacted us.”
The other marker dedicated to an African American in Forney tells the story of Mr. William McDonald, an educator, business owner and public official. There are a total of 10 historical markers in the city, Ms. Noble added.
Ms. Noble said that the Henry marker was approved under a program created in 2006 by the Texas Historical Commission in Austin to address omissions in the state’s historical marker program, and to include more women and ethnic minorities.
The first person in the Malone family to contact historical preservation managers in Forney was Mr. Malone’s uncle, Lt. Colonel George H. Jackson, a United States Air Force veteran who earned a degree in electrical engineering from Tuskegee when he was 19 years-old. Mr. Jackson made his first request to Forney officials in 1986.
“This has been a very long and important struggle for our family,” said Mr. Malone. “We were always puzzled why his name was not included in Forney’s history, and why he had not been recognized for all that he had done. We always knew that we had to do something to accomplish it.”
Joseph Green-Bishop is a long-time journalist who has published newspapers in America and Africa. Currently he is a news correspondent for Texas Metro News.