Keith Pitcher Award-Winner wore many hats for Madison County

Don Henderson once served on eight boards at the same time

By Kyle Morey | 2.22.14

Photo by Dale Pickett

 

Donald E. Henderson knew, admired and respected Keith Pitcher.

“I thought Keith was one of the kindest and most giving persons I knew when he headed the chamber,” Henderson said. He exemplified what public service was all about.”

So it was with great surprise that Henderson found out he would be receiving this year’s Keith J. Pitcher Character In Business Award, presented annually to a Madison County business person with an established history of leadership and service.

“I was really shocked,” Henderson said. “I am very honored to be selected.”

The 80-year-old Henderson has worn many hats over the years, but focused on one common goal with each endeavor.

“I really believe we are here to serve others,” he said. “The best way to lead is by example. I’ve always tried to lead by delegating authority to others and watching them grow. It’s always been very gratifying to me.”

After a 40-year career with Farm Bureau which saw Henderson serve as chief executive officer and chief lobbyist, he’s spent the past 15 years or so giving back to the community. At one time, Henderson was on eight different boards and commissions at the same time, including St. Vincent and St. John’s hospital boards.

One of the higher profile public service roles Henderson had was on the Pendleton Town Council. He had joined the board in 1999 and spent 13 years as its president.

It was an appropriate role, given Henderson’s deep Madison County roots. His grandparents moved to the Pendleton area in 1897.

It was in this role that Henderson’s ability to bring people together and empower them really shined. A lifelong Republican, Henderson was elected as president by a Democrat-dominated council.

“Don’t let anyone tell you we can’t work together,” Henderson said of the political parties.

Henderson was so well respected that the last two times he ran for re-election, there was no opposition.

Achievements by the Henderson-led council included building the industrial park, getting the town on the national historic register and construction of a new fire station.

Henderson’s work ethic and team philosophy trace back to growing up on a Henry County farm four miles north of Sulphur Springs, a community just down the road from Pendleton on U.S. 36.

He played basketball, baseball and ran track all four years of his high school days. His best event was the half-mile, which he won four years in a row in the Henry County meet.

His middle-distance running skills were, in a way, a metaphor for Henderson’s ability to “run” boards and organizations and help them reach goals – not in an all-out sprint, but, at the same time, not at such a slow pace that nothing ever gets done.

So the man who once spent lots of time in Washington, D.C. as the chief lobbyist for Farm Bureau will be celebrated for what he’s meant to Madison County. The award he will receive officially recognizes his commitment to the six pillars of character – trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.

The award will be presented during the 2014 Madison County Chamber Annual Awards Gala from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, March 6, at the Madison Park Church of God in Anderson.

And the spirit of Keith J. Pitcher will no doubt fill the room.

About the Award

A highly prestigious individual designation, this award is presented annually to a Madison County businessperson with an established history of leadership and service and a work ethic that goes above and beyond expectations. Co-presented by the Chamber and Character Counts! of Madison County, it officially recognizes the recipient’s commitment to Six Pillars of Character—Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship. In honor of his outstanding contribution to Madison County’s business community, in 2011 the Character in Business Award was renamed the Keith J. Pitcher Character in Business Award by then Board Chairman Mike Latchaw and committee. This award was presented posthumously to Keith's wife and family at the 2011 Gala. View more past award winners on our WALL OF FAME.

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