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Inola Henry dies at 66; teacher and California Democratic activist

Henry was a frequent delegate to the Democratic National Convention and served as chairwoman of the resolutions committee of the state party. For more than two decades she taught in L.A. Unified.

August 05, 2009|Elaine Woo

Inola Henry, an educator, teachers union leader and longtime Democratic Party activist on the local, state and national levels, died July 26 at her home in Los Angeles. She was 66.

The cause was a heart attack, according to her son, Carl.

Henry was well known within the California Democratic Party as chairwoman of the resolutions committee, which reviews proposals to clarify the party's position on a wide array of often contentious issues, including affirmative action, gay marriage and the Iraq war.

"She was an anchor for the California Democratic Party," said longtime Democratic strategist Bob Mulholland, who knew Henry for 30 years. "Everybody felt she gave them a fair hearing."

Henry was a frequent delegate to the Democratic National Convention, including in 2008 when she cast her vote as a superdelegate for Barack Obama.

She shared her expertise molding resolutions with the Democratic National Committee, where for nine years she chaired its committee to evaluate and craft statements about party principles. She filled a similarly influential behind-the-scenes role for the National Education Assn.

"Writing the resolutions was a great way to shape an organization because the resolutions tell you what we believe in. That's why she loved doing that work," said Jimmie Woods-Gray, who heads the political action committee for United Teachers Los Angeles.

Henry was born Nov. 15, 1942, in Henderson, Texas, and grew up in Lawton, Okla. She earned a bachelor's degree in English from the Oklahoma College for Women in 1965 before moving to Los Angeles, where she helped found the Watts Summer Festival in 1966.

For more than two decades starting in 1965, she taught at Normandie Avenue Elementary School in South Los Angeles and Gardner Street Elementary School in Hollywood. At United Teachers Los Angeles she sat on the board and for many years chaired the union's political action committee.

Since 1990 Henry was a facilitator in the Los Angeles Unified School District's Student-to-Student Integration Program, which sought to promote racial and ethnic understanding through tolerance training sessions held at a Griffith Park camp site. It served about 9,000 students a year.

"She was highly respected," said Sharon Curry, a retired district assistant superintendent who helped oversee the program. "That was her passion -- to develop tolerance among kids."

When funding for the $1-million program was eliminated in recent budget cuts Henry lobbied officials in Sacramento and Los Angeles to save it but was unsuccessful.

"She cleared out her desk about three weeks before her death. She was very heartbroken about it," said Carl Henry, a state deputy attorney general.

In addition to her son, Henry leaves a brother, Robert Henry, of Alhambra, and a sister, Charlesetta Griffin, of Washington, D.C.

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elaine.woo@latimes.com

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