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Marcus Henry left impact on countless Dothan youths
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Marcus Henry left impact on countless Dothan youths

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Marcus Henry

Marcus Henry was a hero to his younger brother, Mike Henry.

“If it wasn’t for Marcus Henry, there would be no coach Mike Henry,” the current Carroll High basketball coach said.

Reeivice Girtman, now the superintendent of Ozark City Schools, was among the countless number of children the elder Henry influenced.

“I can literally say that Marcus Henry saved a lot of lives, because he kept the kids off the street and out of trouble because they had a place to go,” Girtman said.

Keven Jackson, who starred in football at Northview and the University of Alabama, always knew he could go to Henry for advice.

“He was the man at the Lincoln Center,” Jackson said of the recreation center in Dothan now known as Andrew Belle Center. “He was our main guy that we would go talk to if we were having problems about anything.

“He kept a tight rope on all of us. He was a great role model. He would get on our butts if we did something wrong. He made us be a better person, and made us stay in sports, too. He touched a lot of kids growing up in my era.”

Marcus Henry passed away unexpectedly Thursday at the age of 62. He worked for more than 25 years for the Dothan Department of Leisure Services at various recreation centers, but is remembered by so many for his time at Lincoln Center where he began in the early 1980s.

“Obviously Lincoln Center wasn’t in what a lot of people would consider the safest environment as far as the housing projects and the community and the poverty and the drugs and things around it,” Girtman said. “But when you were in there, you felt safe, you know? If somebody got after you, you could run into the center there and know Marcus wasn’t going to let anybody bother you.

“He knew everybody; everybody knew him. If you were black back then and you did not look up to Marcus Henry, then something was the matter with you. His name carried that kind of respect.”

Mike Henry, who has been a successful high school basketball coach for many years, learned much about sports by playing for his older brother, who coached many youth league teams in addition to overseeing the Lincoln Center.

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“It was a rite of passage to get to play for Marcus,” Mike Henry said. “Every kid that played high school ball that became an exceptional athlete all came through Marcus, including myself.

“And we all had to go through it. And when I say we had to go through it, we knew that he was stern and he was strong and he cared for us, but he pushed us to the limit.”

Before he began his work in recreation, he was a tremendous athlete himself and caught the winning touchdown pass for Northview against Dothan during a 10-7 victory 1978, the first season for the Cougars.

“I still remember it vividly,” Mike Henry said. “He caught it on a short post route in the north end zone to give Northview the victory. I’ll never forget it as long as a live.”

Girtman remembers spending many days at Lincoln Center when he was at a young age.

“There are so many memories and stories that come to mind … watching him run that place, talking to kids, talking to parents, helping parents figure out how to find money to raise their kids whether it had anything to do with whether they played sports or not,” Girtman said.

“He always had a loud, kind of raspy voice, but it would be deep. When he wanted you to feel what he was saying, he could say it. I know that Marcus was Mike Henry’s hero. I know that, because he was mind too in a lot of ways.”

Mike Henry planned to coach his Carroll team on Friday night against Headland despite the difficult circumstances.

‘I know it sounds cliché, but I know he would want me to press on,” Henry said. “In the spirit of him, I’m going to be coaching this game with him on my mind and a heavy heart for sure. I’m just grateful for the time I was able to spend with my brother and the time he was able to help nurture me and give back so enthusiastically in helping so many kids.

“He always gave us that confidence that we could make it wherever we came from. He gave us all hope that we could be as good as we wanted us to be.

“Even in my coaching career he was always there; even sometimes when I didn’t want to hear it. He was there to remind me what I needed to do. I’m going to miss that.”

Funeral plans were incomplete at the time of this writing.

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