The storied life of Poulsbo City Councilman Jim Henry may have begun in humble surroundings, but by striking a difference, building relationships and choosing service, his legacy endures as a quiet but influential leader for North Kitsap County.
The Chicago-born first son of James Henry Jr. and Gladys Pollard, James Henry III was born on Sept. 9, 1937, at Cook County Hospital in Illinois. Growing up in the Maxwell Street district, Henry had to make tough choices early in life. With the help of his uncle Charles Henry, who was a steward in the Navy during World War II, he chose Navy service as a way to move up.
Henry graduated from David G. Farragut High School in 1955 and promptly enlisted in the Navy. Graduating from boot camp at nearby Naval Station Great Lakes, he was accepted into the submarine service as a quartermaster and never looked back. Like Admiral Farragut, it was full speed ahead for Seaman Henry.
“I was James until I went into the Navy,” Henry said. “Overnight, I became Jim Henry for 31 years.”
It was on his first submarine, the USS Hardhead (SS-365), where the wide-eyed Henry learned one of the most important lessons of his life. After taking an opportunity to ask a warrant officer on watch, “Do warrant officers really have to know everything?,” the warrant soberly replied, “No, Henry, you simply have to know who does.”
This was important news to a young man who was just getting out of his neighborhood into a very big world.
“Suddenly, all things became possible,” Henry said. “That, I could do.”
Henry’s romance with the Pacific Northwest began on July 24, 1967. As a new warrant officer on the USS Arikara (ATF-98), he was standing his first watch afloat as officer of the deck as the fleet tug made a sunrise passage eastward through the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
“The morning sky was beautiful — blue and without a cloud,” Henry said. “I was enthralled and decided right at that moment I would tell my wife that this is where we would live.”
The needs of the Navy were not as easily swayed. It took 14 years for Henry to land orders at Keyport, where he led as range control officer at the Naval Undersea Warfare Engineering Station until his retirement in 1986. Henry returned to Keyport as a civilian the following year, and retired from civil service in 1999.
Henry’s entry into local politics evolved from an invitation from Poulsbo’s mayor, Richard “Mitch” Mitchusson, to join the planning commission. As he dove in and nurtured new relationships, Henry’s innovation and good nature helped to develop a strong and enduring governmental relationship between the Suquamish Tribe and Poulsbo City Council.
Henry’s ability to collaborate and bridge cultural barriers is a credit to his appreciation of how differences can make us stronger. Soon, he became a member of the Suquamish Warriors, a group of Suquamish Tribe and community veterans, and was ultimately honored by the Suquamish Tribe as an honorary elder.
In part, Henry attributes his success in life from a deep drive to be busy but also his willingness to try different things. It isn’t a surprise that he advises younger generations to do the same.
“Do something,” Henry said. “Don’t be afraid to try something you haven’t done before. The first time you succeed, it becomes easier. And I’ve discovered that when you are working at things that are fun, it’s not work — it’s fun.”
Concerning education, Henry is equally impassioned.
“I know you want to get out of there and are tired, but those teachers are priceless assets. Listen. It will all come back to you later.”
With almost 60 years of global and community service, the life of James Henry III is an enduring profile of giving that leads and inspires generations to come.