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Longtime Gainesville police chief Hoyt Henry dead at age 86
Hoyt Henry

Hoyt Herschel Henry, who served as chief of the Gainesville Police Department from 1952 to 1971, died Friday following an extended illness. He was 86.

Henry, who at one time was the youngest police chief in the state, headed a small department of just 25 officers. He hired the first two black patrolmen and the first female police officer during his tenure.

"There were no black police officers in Northeast Georgia at the time," said Royce Stephens, who was hired along with Earnest Earls as the first black men to wear the Gainesville badge in September 1963.

"He was a good man and a very fair man," Stephens said. "It took a man like Hoyt Henry to initiate that effort (integration) in 1963."

Current Chief Frank Hooper knew Henry all his life. It was Henry who hired Hooper’s father, Roy, on the Gainesville force.

"Our city has lost a great citizen," Hooper said, adding that he spoke with Henry regularly and remembered his sense of humor. "He would always ask me, ‘How’s the second-best chief Gainesville ever had?’"

Henry, on more than one occasion, went directly to the black community to help quell civil unrest during the 1960s, both Hooper and Stephens recalled.

Henry was also known for his calm dealings with young people, often having young offenders sit on an old oak bench in the department to ponder their offense. Sometimes they were sent home without being charged.

"I saw youth who were a problem and turned out to be some of the finest citizens we have," Henry told The Times in a 1971 interview.

Henry, after serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, joined the Gainesville Police Department in November 1944 and was named chief in 1952.

After leaving the department in 1971, he became chief of protective services for Lake Lanier Islands, where he served for 14 years.

He was a charter member of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police and was active in the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

He is survived by a son, Hoyt "Buddy" Henry Jr., a granddaughter, Heather Henry, both of Gainesville, and a sister, Nell Stewart of Sugar Hill.

The family will receive friends Sunday from 4-8 p.m. at the funeral home.

Funeral services will be held Monday at 11 a.m. in the chapel of Mason & Ward Funeral Home. Officiating will be Monsignor Donald Kiernan, a longtime chaplain to Georgia and national law enforcement organizations. Kiernan began his service as a chaplain when he was serving St. Michael’s Parish in Gainesville.