Rick Henry gives Judi Gatson tour of hometown - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Rick Henry gives Judi Gatson tour of hometown

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Rick Henry shows Judi Gatson his boyhood home Rick Henry shows Judi Gatson his boyhood home
MCBEE, SC (WIS) -

This week is Rick Henry's 25th year at WIS.

Over the years he's scored major league  interviews and traveled around the country covering some of the biggest events in sports. But one thing that's never changed is the pride he takes in the place he calls home.

McBee, South Carolina sits in Chesterfield County. Population 867, covering a total area of 1.2 square miles.

It's a close knit community where everyone is considered a neighbor.

"A lot of memories," recalled Henry.  "You know, playing in these fields around here."

For Rick, the heart of McBee sits just off Highway 151 in the home where he spent most of his childhood.  His mom, Mrs. Nancy Henry who was a teacher and his dad, James R. Henry, Sr., a factory worker, built the house in 1965.

"Hey Judi, look at these cedar trees," said Henry."They're probably close to around 30 feet tall now and my parents planted them when we moved in here back in 1965. Of course, they're like that and now they're humongous."

A tour of the town with Henry is a bit of a history lesson.  Just down the road is the place where he learned a lot. Now it's McBee elementary, but back in the day it was Pine Forest.

"It was the only school in town for black kids and we had grades one through 12 here, so a lot of good memories here," Henry said.

And walking the halls brings all those memories back. His first grade teacher was a wonderful lady named Mrs. Lyles who taught him how to write.

"I remember I enjoyed it so much," Henry said. "I wrote on the wall at home."

Being at the school felt like home to him.

"My mother's room was right down here," he pointed out. Mrs. Henry was a science teacher so this used to be a science lab.

Henry actually liked having his mom at school, although she was responsible for one of his most embarrassing moments. It all went down in second grade, on the stage in the gym.

"It was a school play and I was the bug in the rug," Henry said. "My mother dyed a pair of long johns green.

Unfortunately, Henry said there are no photos of his acting debut.

Mr. David Nutt is the principal now. He said all these years later, Rick is still making a lasting impression. They have a television studio where kids who keep their grades up can audition to be the next Rick Henry.

"When somebody sees somebody like yourself come and speak at a program and then they turn the television set on and they see this role model, It's very influential," said Nutt.

Our next stop takes us back to Highway 151 for a visit to McBee High.

"This is the part that was here when I was here," he said.

They've had a lot of changes and renovations since Henry was a student there, including a brand new gym,  but it didn't take long for him to find his old spot.  

"This was the spot in the morning, you know for girl watching and, would you believe we even had like a secret rating system," he said.  "I can't remember all the specifics, but I remember that we did, so yeah, pretty good way to start the day."

Despite his antics, Henry was a good student.  In fact, he was the best.  He graduated as valedictorian and said his success goes back to his very first test.  It was a science test. The teacher told the class one student turned in a perfect paper-- James Henry.

"And a lot of my classmates were looking around going, 'Who's that? Who's that? Who's that?'" said Henry.  "And he handed me back my paper and it was just a very proud moment for me especially because like in the early days of integration a lot of black  kids, maybe they were a little bit intimidated about going into a different surrounding and wondering if they could compete and get it done and so it's just an inspiration to a lot of my friends and also it showed everyone that, hey everyone, everyone can accomplish good things if you just work hard. And hey, he may have a different skin color but he's smart."

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