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More than 70 of Henry's descendants attended the commencement ceremony, including Marie Lampkins (middle), the oldest living descendant, ...

Squire Miller Henry & His Living Legacies

On May 6, 2023, Emory & Henry celebrated its 175th commencement ceremony and the Class of 2023. Squire Miller Henry, a former porter and furnace stoker for the College, was among those celebrated, but with an honorary posthumous Doctorate of Divinity.

Posted July 06, 2023

“Awarding Squire Henry an honorary degree posthumously at commencement was a true honor. His dedication and loyalty to Emory & Henry, coupled with his decades of service to this institution, are part of the very foundation of the College,” said President Wells. “His impact was profound on the everyday life of students, faculty and staff members. In celebration of his life and legacy, we are grateful to work with his family to honor Henry in this way. Squire Henry’s legacy will not be forgotten, and we are indeed grateful for all he did as an extraordinary employee of Emory & Henry College.”

Squire Miller Henry Henry was born into slavery in 1848 in Rockbridge County, Virginia, to Woodrow and Francis Henry. In 1868, he went to Washington County to work as a farm laborer for John Buchanan, who was teaching at the College. He soon came to work for the College as a porter and laborer and continued to work at Emory & Henry for 50 years. Henry also may have been one of the first individuals from the College who interacted with first-year students stepping off a train at the Emory Depot. In 1871, Henry married Mary Ann Brown. The college president, E.E. Wiley, performed the wedding at the time. Together they had 14 children and resided in the Blacksburg, Virginia community.

“Squire Miller Henry worked at Emory & Henry most of his adult life and was dedicated to the people there,” said Mary Lampkins ’88, ’09, Henry’s great-great-grandaughter and a two-time graduate of Emory & Henry. “It means the world to me to have my great-great-grandfather receive his degree from Emory & Henry College in 2023. I am grateful to everyone that made this happen,” said Lampkins.

In his later life, Henry was honored with multiple citations and recognitions from the Emory & Henry community. Henry died in his Blacksburg home in December 1923. Today, his legacy continues to live on throughout the College and his descendants, many of whom have worked at or graduated from Emory & Henry. This year’s commencement ceremony also observed 100 years since the passing of Henry.

Henry’s descendants and others rooted in the Blacksburg community share stories of his integrity, commitment to the church and hard work for his family. Henry was instrumental in establishing the Mt. Zion Baptist Church, which still meets in Blacksburg.

More than 70 descendants of Henry attended the 2023 commencement ceremony, and the eldest living descendant, Marie Lampkins, 90, accepted the degree on his behalf.

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