In 1967, Dr. George Henderson became the University of Oklahoma’s third full-time African American faculty member at the Norman campus. In 1969, he became the Sylvan N. Goldman Professor of Human Relations, Education and Sociology. Later, he was appointed to three other distinguished professorships: David Ross Boyd Professor, Regents’ Professor, and Kerr-McGee Presidential Professor. After he became the Goldman Professor, he founded the Human Relations Department, which he chaired for 20 years. From 1996 to 2000, he was dean of the College of Liberal Studies. Thus, he was the first African American in Oklahoma to hold a distinguished professorship; and he was the first African American at the University of Oklahoma to create a degree-granting department; and the first African American dean of a degree-granting college on the Norman campus. Although he retired from the University in 2006, he still teaches on a part-time basis.
A civil rights pioneer in higher education in Oklahoma, George Henderson has achieved many other notable accomplishments. His awards and honors include being the recipient of the OU Regents Superior Teaching Award (1977); University of Oklahoma and University of Oklahoma Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award (1992); American Association for Higher Education's Black Caucus Award for Outstanding Educational Service (1993); C.V. Ramana Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Mental Health of Oklahoma's Children (1996); Outstanding Professor Award, University of Oklahoma Interfraternity Council and Pan-Hellenic Association (1997); Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Medal for the Outstanding College and University Professor (2000); State of Oklahoma Black Heritage Lifetime Achievement Award (2003); Induction into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame (2003) and also induction into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame (2003). In 2010, the Oklahoma City/Norman Chapter of the OU Black Alumni Society awarded him a “Trailblazer Award for Distinguished Service.” The Henderson Scholars Program and the Henderson-Tolson Cultural Center on the Norman campus bear his name. The University of Oklahoma awarded him an honorary doctorate (Doctor of Humane Letters) at the May 2011 Commencement. In 2015, Oklahoma Today Magazine named Dr. Henderson one of the forty-five most influential African American Oklahomans. In 2012, he was inducted into the Oklahoma African-American Hall of Fame.
A race relations and civil rights scholar, George Henderson has taught university courses and spoken at conferences and workshops throughout the United States and internationally. In addition, he has written 34 books and 50 articles, presented papers at over 100 professional conferences; been a consultant to dozens of state and national organizations; and has been a keynote speaker at over 200 student meetings. Prominent among his books are To Live in Freedom: Human Relations Today and Tomorrow (1972); Human Relations: From Theory to Practice (1974); Cultural Diversity in the Workplace (1994); Migrants, Immigrants and Slaves (1995); Human Relations Issues in Management (1996); Our Souls to Keep: Black/White Relations in America (1999); Psychosocial Aspects of Disability (2004); Race and the University: A Memoir (2010); A Human Relations Approach to Multiculturalism in K-12 Schools (2013) and Introduction to Human Relations Studies (2016). In 2011, the Oklahoma Historical Society selected Race and the University as the Outstanding Book on Oklahoma History published in 2010.
In 2003, he received the College of Education’s Career Achievement Award. In 2019, he received the College of Arts and Sciences’ Distinguished Service Award. In 2011, Dr. Henderson and his wife Barbara were recipients of the Xenia Institute’s Sam Mathews Social Justice Award. They were the first African American property owners in Norman. They are the parents of seven children and the grandparents of eight grandchildren. Dr. Henderson’s master’s degree in sociology and Ph.D. in educational sociology are from Wayne State University in Detroit.
Favorite Educational Memory:
"My favorite moment was seeing the tears in my mother's eyes and her mouth smiling when I received my high school diploma. Her dream had come true. I was the first person in my family to graduate from high school. And I would the first one to go to college."