Ben C. Henley

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Benjamin Charles Henley​

State Chairman of the
Arkansas Republican Party
In office
1955 ​ – 1962​
Preceded by Osro Cobb
Succeeded by William L. Spicer

Born October 7, 1907​
St. Joe, Searcy County, Arkansas​
Died November 7, 1987 (aged 80) ​
Place of death missing​
Resting place Henley Cemetery in St. Joe, Arkansas​
Spouse(s) Jewel Ivie Henley​
Relations Judge Jesse Smith Henley (brother)​
Residence Harrison, Boone County, ​
Alma mater University of Arkansas School of Law​

Benjamin Charles Henley, usually known as Ben C. Henley (October 7, 1907 – November 7, 1987), was a lawyer and businessman from Harrison in Boone County in northwestern Arkansas, who was the chairman of his state's Republican Party from 1955 to 1962.[1]


The Political Graveyard, a website, indicates that Henley was the state party chairman from 1955 to 1958,[2] but the historian of Arkansas politics, Cathy K. Urwin, writes that Henley gave up the chairmanship in 1962 to William L. Spicer of Fort Smith.[3] Henley is listed in records of the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California, as still the chairman in October 1961. His fellow attorney Roy H. Mitchell (1900-1973) of Hot Springs, was first vice-chairman. In 1956, Mitchell had been the gubernatorial nominee in 1956, but was defeated by Orval E. Faubus[4]

Henley was the son of Benjamin Harrison Henley and the former Jessie Genoa Willis Smith. He was married until his death to Jewel Marie Ivie Henley (March 21, 1909 – May 26, 1995).[5][6] He graduated from the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville. He tutored an aunt by marriage, Mary Elizabeth Smith Massey (1900-1971), in the study of law. Massey, like Maud Crawford of Camden, became one of the first women lawyers in Arkansas. In 1934, Mary Massey ran on the Republican ticket for county/circuit clerk in Henley's native Searcy County, was elected, and served three terms in the position. As an appointed city attorney in 1935, she developed the blueprint for the water city system in Marshall, Arkansas, and campaigned for a bond issue to finance the project.[7]

As the state party chairman, Henley was a delegate to the 1956 and 1960 Republican National Conventions held in San Francisco, California, and Chicago, Illinois, respectively.[8] In 1956, as his party's unsuccessful nominee for the United States Senate against the Democrat J. William Fulbright, Henley finished with 17 percent of the vote, well behind his party's presidential nominee, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who still lost Arkansas in the second race against Adlai Stevenson of Illinois and his Tennessee running-mate, Senator Estes Kefauver.[9] The Stevenson campaign was managed in Arkansas by the liberal journalist Harry S. Ashmore.[10] Fulbright received 331,679 votes to Henley's 68,016.[11]

In addition to his legal practice, Henley was part-owner, with later Harrison Mayor Bob Reynolds, of Walters Dry Goods Company at the intersection of Main and Stephenson streets in Harrison, the only local dealer of Levi jeans. In May 1961, the store was completely flooded, and virtually all of the mud-soaked merchandise was lost. The facility, which carried no flood insurance, was refurbished through a loan from the Small Business Administration. Walters has since passed into history, and another business, Leflers, moved into that location.[12]

Henley died in 1987 at the age of eighty. He and his wife are interred at the Henley Cemetery near St. Joe in Searcy County.[5] Henley's younger brother, Jesse Smith Henley (1917-1997), was a long-term judge of the U.S. district and appeals courts, for whom the federal building in Harrison is named.


  1. (1991) Cathy Kunzinger Urwin, Agenda for Reform: Winthrop Rockefeller As Governor of Arkansas, 1967-71, p. 37. Fayetteville, Arkansas: University of Arkansas Press. Retrieved on August 19, 2012. 
  2. Index to Politicians: Hendrickson to Henrotin. Retrieved on September 2, 2013.
  3. The Arkansas Republican Party headquarters in the capital city of Little Rock does not maintain a list of past chairmen and their years in office.
  4. List of Officers, Republican State Central Committees, October 3, 1961. Retrieved on September 2, 2013.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Henley Cemetery, Searcy County, Arkansas. Retrieved on August 17, 2012.
  6. Moses Bowen Data Page. Retrieved on August 17, 2012.
  7. Mary Elizabeth Smith Massey (1900-1971). Retrieved on August 17, 2012.
  8. Index to Politicians: Hendrickson to Henrotin. Retrieved on August 17, 2012.
  9. Arkansas Secretary of State, General election returns, November 6, 1956.
  10. The New York Times, October 12, 1956.
  11. Arkansas Secretary of State, State election returns, November 6, 1956.
  12. Bob Reynolds. "All Hell Broke Loose", May 6, 2007. Retrieved on September 2, 2013.