Of Character: Pam Henry has focused on her ability to help others with disabilities
Some might think Pam Henry has been recognized for her disabilities.
A closer look shows that Henry, who contracted polio at 14 months old, has been honored throughout the years for her ability to help others.
At 8, she was the national March of Dimes poster child. Last April, Henry received a lifetime achievement award from the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services. Her goal then and now was the same — to be a voice for those with disabilities.
“During the months that Mother and I traveled the USA, I met many other children with disabilities with polio and birth defects,” said Henry, 64, of Oklahoma City. “I was proud to be raising money to help combat birth defects and to encourage parents to have their children immunized for polio.”
As a child, Henry was almost paralyzed from the waist down. She learned to walk again with crutches and two short leg braces.
She remembers having eight surgeries to stabilize her ankles by fusing them. In 1960, she got a long brace for her left leg and did away with the right leg brace. In 1967, Oklahoma City’s Dr. Don O’Donoghue performed an operation that he had devised to strengthen Henry’s left knee. She was able to get rid of the left brace.
“All went well until 1995 when post-polio syndrome set in and I had to start using a wheelchair,” she said.
Willing to help
In 1972, Oklahoma City Mayor Patience Latting appointed Henry to the Mayor’s Committee on Disability Concerns. That led to appointments to many other committees that helped people with disabilities.
In 2000, Henry was appointed to the Goodwill Industries of Central Oklahoma board of directors.
All the while, she was acting on another ability. As a broadcast journalist, Henry worked for more than 30 years at KFOR, KOCO, KWTV, KSWO and OETA, where she was manager of news and public affairs.
“In 2002, due to post-polio, I had to retire from my beloved career in TV news,” she said. “Since then, working to help people with disabilities has become my job.”
Henry has been recognized for her abilities as a broadcast journalist and a disability advocate.
Ten years ago she was inducted into to the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame. Henry also is on the boards of the Statewide Independent Living Council and the Regional Transit Dialogue Steering Committee.
Plus, she serves on the Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.
As she reflects, Henry is thankful for the decisions and actions of her parents, Ruth and the late Ingram Henry Jr.
Those led her to focus on the abilities that could benefit others.
“My parents mainstreamed me into public schools before the term mainstream was applied to people with disabilities,” she said. “That was the decision that helped me live and work in the real world.
“God bless my parents.”