BILLY CECIL HENRY was born an OKIE. Born in 1939 in Dorgherty (Murray county), Oklahoma to Cecil and Ada Henry, the Henry family were farmers, and Billy was the 3rd child of 3.
At an early age, the family moved to Wynnewood and then to Norman, about 1-1/2 miles from Hollywood Corners. Perhaps that is why we usually see Billy on Thursday nights at the cRuise-in there!
Sooner of later his dad quit farming and went to work at a feed store and then at an ice plant. Billy meanwhile continued his education in the Norman public school system at Jefferson elementary, and the old Norman junior high, and finally Norman high, graduating in 1957.
The Air Force sounded pretty good and so in he went. Following basic training he was married to Mary and they have been together ever since. Billy moved to Charleston, S.C. as a radar electrical power production specialist – where he learned some of his good engine skills. Speed skills were to come later. They lived in Charleston for 1-1/2 years, Fire Island, Alaska for 1 year, and then were transferred to Eagle Pass, Texas for 1-1//2 years. During that time, Mary gave birth to twin girls.
Once his enlistment was complete, Billy and family returned to Norman where Billy ran ‘Henry’s Ice and Beer to go” up on North Porter. The site has since been cleared and a Farm Bureau business sits there. He bought the ice business from his dad, and then in 1966 bought a Fina gas station, also on Porter. This building still exists as a flower shop just south of Van’s BBQ. In 1969, he joined Coors Brewing Company where he found a good home, good advancement, and worked there for 31 years.
In retirement, Billy used to buy wrecked Hondas from insurance companies and mix and match the cars back together. He did this for almost 14 years. I suppose that if you ever wanted to know anything about a Honda, well, you should see Billy first.
Example...Honda before Billy:
Honda after Billy:
WHAT WERE YOUR EARLY YEAR CARS?
“My first was a 1949 Ford that was totaled in a slight head on collision with a highway patrol car. I then purchased a 1952 Ford convertible, followed by a 1955 Ford and then a 1957 Ford convertible.” Billy is a confirmed Ford guy, as well as a lover of convertibles.
Floyd Yates is Billy’s cousin, and those of you who know Floyd, know his 1963 white Ford Galaxie XL – well Billy had one just like it and both he and Floyd purchased these cars within a week of each other! As the story goes, Billy ordered his in November and was waiting for it. When it arrived, one week later Floyd bought his off the showroom floor. Billy hopped his up and decided to use this family car as a dragster, racing it weekly in Ardmore or at the strip up in OKC at the fairgrounds.
“I don’t think that transmission was ever built to stand up to my racing. I think Ford rebuilt my transmission a number of times. Much of it was still under warranty. They finally convinced my to keep that car off the track.” Billy said.
So Billy decided to make the 1963 back into a family-mobile, and he went out and purchased a 427 engine to put into a dedicated drag car. And hot it was. When he first started running it, it was turning a 13 second ¼ mile, but when he finished – well, it was a 10 second car.
IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY CAR YOU WANTED……”I already have it” Billy told me. “It is my 1955 Thunderbird convertible.”
WHAT DO PEOPLE PROBABLY NOT KNOW ABOUT BILLY HENRY?
“Well, I was a scuba diver for a good while, and I used to water ski competitively. We built a competition ski jump over in Lake Thunderbird and held ski competitions there.”
“When I was younger, I went through a motorcycle phase and a group of us would gather in the flood plane near Lake Thunderbird at dusk. We would then ride the dirt bikes looking for Jackrabbits. Back in the day there were many. We would stir up a Jackrabbit and the chase was on, the rabbit cutting back and forth and the dirt bikes zig zagging left and right to try to keep the rabbit in the headlights. Jackrabbits can go very fast for a short period of time but the tire pretty easily and so in a few minutes the rabbit would tucker out and just stop cold. We would stop also and reach down, and pick him up and pet him, passing him around among the chasers, and then set him carefully back on the ground and go try to find another one. We never harmed any of them, just chased and petted them.”
His current fleet consists of the 1955 bird, a 1966 Thunderbird, and a 2004 Thunderbird. But just then you think he is a has Ford tattooed on his forearm – his family car is an Acura! He was an early member of the cRc and we see Billy and Mary in their 1955 at most club events.
“We also love Colorado, especially the Lake City area where we like to go and ride 4-wheelers. We went there for 16 years in a row. As you know, Mary and I have been going to south Texas since 2005, spending part of the winter in Mercedes, Texas. We have gradually built an entire set of friends down there from all over North America.”
Billy and Mary are faithful members of our club, always willing to pitch in and lend a hand of run a project.