William O.E. Henry

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William O.E. Henry

William “Bill” O.E. Henry, once listed as one of the best lawyers in America, called himself a true Central Floridian. Born in Ocala, he received both journalism and law degrees from the University of Florida, worked at a newspaper in Ocala, and eventually became a partner at a law firm in Bartow.

Just out of high school, Henry served two years of active duty with the Navy. He was later commissioned and served 20 years as an officer in charge of a Naval Reserve Intelligence unit.

During his time at UF, Henry was active across the campus, where he served as editor of the All American 1949 Seminole Yearbook and the 1950 Summer Gator newspaper and helped produce Gator Growl. He was president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon social fraternity and a member of Phi Eta Sigma scholastic fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, Sigma Delta Chi journalism honorary and Florida Blue Key.

Henry learned from the best when he entered the then small firm, Holland, Bevis, McRae and Smith in Bartow. In 1968 the firm merged with Knight, Jones, Whitaker & Germany, creating the state’s largest law firm. Henry moved to the Lakeland office to be closer to his clients and to become chairman of the firm’s executive committee and a team leader of his area of practice — corporate, tax, health, alternative dispute resolutions and trusts and estates.

Henry also served his profession by remaining active in The Florida Bar, where he held many positions, including president in 1983. He served for six years as a member of the board of governors and was the chairman of several Bar committees. He was also the president of The Florida Bar Foundation from 1988 to 1989, trustee of The Florida Bar Foundation Endowment Trust and chair of the Tax Section of the Florida Bar. Henry was also the first Floridian in 50 years to serve on the council of the Section of Business Law for the American Bar Association.

Henry’s legal talents were recognized countless times. He was awarded the Medal of Honor by The Florida Bar Foundation, the Outstanding Past-President award by the Voluntary Bar Association, and the Outstanding Tax Attorney in the State of Florida by the Tax Section of The Florida Bar.

A loyal alumnus to his alma mater, he served as president of the University of Florida National Alumni Association and was the recipient of the University of Florida Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1972.

Bill is survived by his wife, Mary; son Bob: daughters Jean Theobald and Carol Lee, and his grandchildren.