Marion "Chief" Henley: Now here was a coach

Posted on: July 03,2013

Marion “Chief” Henley, one of the greatest football coaches most people never heard of, has died at his retirement home in Cocoa Beach, Fla.. Henley who was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1993, was 79.
Henley’s Picayune Carver High School teams won 64 straight football games in the 1960s, which was a record that stood until 2007 when South Panola exceeded that streak. Henley still holds the record for consecutive games won by a single high school coach because two coaches, Rickey Woods and Lance Pogue, were involved in the South Panola win streak.
“Our streak should have been a lot longer,” said Jackson resident Lap Baker, who played quarterback for Carver. “When our streak finally ended, it was on a controversial game played right here in Jackson against Jim Hill. The player who supposedly scored the winning touchdown for Jim Hill didn’t even have the ball when he crossed the goalline. That was after they didn’t run the clock to give them time to run another play. It was highway robbery.”
Henley’s Carver teams won 112 games while losing only six for a remarkable winning percentage of .949.
“He was the best coach I’ve ever seen, the smartest coach I’ve ever seen,” Baker said. “You have to realize that he never had an assistant coach. He coached everything: the linemen, the backs, the offense, the defense, the special teams — everything. He was a strict coach who stressed the fundamentals.”
Many high school teams would not play Carver in those pre-integration days.
“We scheduled games with junior colleges,” Baker said. “We played Prentiss Junior College on Thanksgiving Day and I’ll never forget how big those guys looked coming off the bus. They were twice our size but we beat them 27-6. Coach was a great motivator. He always told us a gnat could stop a freight train traveling at the speed of light if he just believed he could. He made us believe we could.”
At the time of his Hall of Fame induction, Henley described his coaching style: “I was the type of coach that let the players dictate what offense and defense we would run that year. If we didn’t have the personnel to run the split-T, we weren’t going to run the split-T. I tried to always mold my coaching to fit my players.”
Curtis Rockwell of the The Picayune Item interviewed Henley when South Panola broke the Carver streak in 2007.
“I’m not upset about it, I respect what they have been able to do,” Henley said. “I was just glad I could be a part of something that special, and to be able to help those young men make a difference. . . .our record has stood for  a long, long time and I don’t think anything can take away from what we achieved.”
Carver left Picayune in 1969 when Carver and all-white Picayune High consolidated. Henley, who had the best coaching record in Mississippi, was assigned to be an assistant coach under a white coach with an inferior record.
“No way he was going to do that,” Baker said. “I don’t see how anybody could blame him.”
Henley coached for 23 more years in Baltimore before his retirement.
A memorial service will be held in Picayune. Details are incomplete.
Marion Henley’s obituary:
Mr. Henley was born in Biloxi, Mississippi on March 17, 1934 to Walter and Jessie Henley, who preceded him in death.
He taught and coached in the Baltimore (Maryland) County School system until his retirement in 1992.
He was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in April , 1993 because of his national football record of 64 consecutive games his team won while Coach at George Washington Carver High School in Picayune, Mississippi.  In September of 2002, Marion was inducted into the Jackson State University Sports Hall of Fame.
Marion and his wife, Shelia traveled all over the United States and many countries abroad. In 2006, they moved from Baltimore, Maryland to Port Saint John, Florida.  He enjoyed his retirement years surrounded by the many people who became their friends and extended families. He had a passion for fishing and sports.  His fishing tales are legends and were enjoyed by all whom he told.
Marion is survived by his wife of 49 years, Sheila Salvant Henley and their sons, Craig (Juanita) of Phoenix, Arizona; Shaun (Dana) of Baltimore, Maryland; Lujuana Lyons, Cassandra Walker, Lisa Hyde (Calvin), Joseph Henley (Charlotta); and a host of Grandchildren, Great-grandchildren, relatives and friends.  His son Andre and 3 brothers, Walter Jr.; John and Joseph Henley preceded him in death.
Marion’s memorial service and celebration of his life will be held at Saint Patrick’s Anglican Catholic Church of Port St. John, 4797 Curtis Blvd., on Tuesday, July 9th, at 6:00 p.m.

7 responses to “Marion "Chief" Henley: Now here was a coach”

  1. Robert Baker says:

    What a great Man ,Coach and Person.A real Father figure for all Kids in Our little Hometown of Good Old Picayune,Ms..My only regreat ! The President of His Alma Marta ( Jackson State University) did not give Him the Head Coaching job at J-State ! We would have played the big Boys like Michgan,Ohio State,Notre Dame and others.That how much everybody in Picayune,Ms. Believed in “Cheif”. GOD Bless Him.

    • Wright H. Brumfield says:

      Coach Henley was a well-rounded mentor. He taught me Algebra as well as my football coach: He had a keen mind for figuring out how equations worked. That skill transferred to the football field, as he prepared us for victories.
      His intellectual acumen is what I mostly remember him by. He was gifted!
      Wright H. Brumfield
      A pirate from 1956-60

      • Robert Naker says:

        Mr. Wright Brumfield did not mention that He was a successful writer for the great TV series ” Ironsides” ,Perry Mason himself.True .He and one of My first Cousins,were,classmates and both played wide receiver for “Cheif” .Wright’s classmates nicknamed his ,get this “Tennessee ” it had something to do with the way He walked or ran a pass,I think but My Cousin knows.And My Cousin nickname was “Heavy” why,I,do not Know.Wright’s classmates,all of them came up with those nicknames,they had one bunch of real brilliant,tough and rough members gifted in all areas.Other players on the team from their class were Percy Manning,Bud Lowe,Dr.Buford Satcher and mNy more.I wish it was possible to get all who played under “Cheif”, in all Sports.So many great things “Cheif” did and taught all of Us at The Great George Washington Carver High School,in Our little old hometown of Picayune,Ms. To make it sound big time to outsiders A lot of Us would say,38 miles from New Orleans(smile) . Chief formed a civic club for after school,for anyone that wanted to help do chores in the Black Community,to help the elderly,basically on Saturday mornings.We would form at His house across the campus from Carver High and decuss where We were going to do chores.He taught Us how to play Chess,Tennis on the Campus grass.So many,many great things about the greatest Man We knew besides GOD.Last he had the smartest Female Students from grade 9,10,11and 12 The to get permission,from their Parents and Principal Johnson to volunteer to help tutor anyone that needed a little help in any class subjects. Lord have Mercy on all Carver High’s Students.A true caring guidance Father whenever He was needed.So much more Thanks Robert Baker.

  2. Wright H. Brumfield says:

    Hey Lapp….I am proud that you keep coach Henley fetes alive long after he has passed. “The good that men do live on after them…As long as he has instilled worth in students who has profit from his teachings”….Hats off to you…A learned and loyal student.
    Will there be a reunion this year, 2017. Let me know .Thanks. Wright H. Brumfield.

  3. Wright H. Brumfield says:

    Breb….You have an informative sight: I love delving back into the past, that involved Coach Henley. When he came to Carver, in Sept. 1956, as an assistant To Coach Lionel Martin. There were students at carver he bonded with as he had connected with as his road-buddies at Jackson State. I was one them, Sam woulard, Joe Henry, Clinton Baker, Alvin Farmer, Percy Manning. “Pop Corn. Billy Ray March,and Buford Satcher.
    Coach Henley bought a “Big-Boat” 1954 Caddywhip….It almost took a block to turn the boat around….One Winter night in 1956, The crew decided to race Coach Henry in My father’s 1953 Ford Fairlane….”Buddy” Percy Manning, Jr.”. Percy was the only student with a driver license. He was the designated drive of my father’s slick ride. We were on the back road over-cross town the paved road lead to the Kiln..Brett Faarb’s Home Town.
    We had about a 20yards lead on Coach Henley, his boat was not fast on the takeoff….But when it got rolling My father’s car could not out run it….Coach pulled alone aside of us…. and as we refocused and look down the road….5 feet in front us was a bull crossing the road ;;;;;; The bull was in between the cars neither car hit the beast of burden…..Percy nor coach flinched! This defined Percy, as a dude who run over you or around you….From the 10th grade he was the GULF+COAST SPENT CHAMP 9.9…BuD Lowe was not a politician, but was a big game guy…..On the 20 spinner Bud ran the winning touchdown 6-0 in Septermber 1958…That beat Laurel. In 1957 Laurel had beat us 6-0 in the “UNE”….Before Bud’s fantastic run we had never beaten Laure.
    Back to Percy, he expressed Coach Henley’s philosophy on and off the field.
    He was a 3 year Captain!
    That was a peep into coach Henley’s swagger…..He was magical….We players became meticulous….Check out how many us have college degrees….”We are what we think….Not who we think we are!”
    Wright “TENN” Brumfield

  4. James "Lap" Baker says:

    We will have a banquet in Picayune, MS on July 6, 2018 at “The Grand”, located on Curran Street in downtown Picayune. This banquet is to honor Coach Marion Lorenzo “Chief” Henley. Also, we will honor and recognize Freddie Little, the former World Boxing Junior Middleweight Champion from Picayune, MS. Picayune has a lot to be proud of, especially the Black population. Both Coach Henley and Freddie (Freddel) are members of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. The former football players from Carver High School are putting this event together. We just can’t forget and we must not. We are getting the tickets printed. We have already made the rental down payment and are still asking for any donation to make the total rental cost of $800.00. This event will take place. This is “Lap” Baker (601-316-0520). Take care and I love all of you because you had a positive impact upon my life. We need to provide a positive impact upon the young brothers and sisters currently living in Picayune.

  5. Robert Baker says:

    I made some errors in my past writings, I apologize. I had just gotten out class at our Alma Mater (Jackson State University) after my return from the Army . Going over to the student Union Building for a Veterans Club Meeting I saw Coach Henley and immediately ran over to greet him and asked what was he doing here at Jackson State . He told me that he had come up for an interview for the Head Coaching Job at his Alma Mater J-State. I said to him “Cheif” if you get the job we are gonna be playing all those big schools(Universities) and beat them . He told me to wait where I was for him after he gets through with the interview. I did , he came back and let me know he didn’t get it but everything was alright . I felt like leaving Jackson State right then but had made a promise to My Mother that if I made it back to America I would go back to J-State and finish my last two years and earn my B.S.Degree, I did. One of the saddest days of my life when he wasn’t given that Head Coaching Job at his , my Brother(Lap), Cousins and many Carver High Student’s Great Alma Mater. Coach Henley was chosen to be one of the 100 greatest players in Jackson State University’s history . Former Coach/Professor of Anatomy and Physiology and one of my great Professors told me he Jackie named Coach Henley “Book” on Campus because he was so smart and likable . Thanks Rick Cleveland for so much that you have helped My Brother (James “Lap” Baker) in getting Coach Henley and the great Light Weight Champion of the World(Freddie Little) from our little old hometown of Picayune,Mississippi inducted . Anytime that you need Me or My Brother (Lap) , just let us know . Robert Baker . jstatebob2@

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)