As Black History Month continues, we would like to pay tribute to Mrs. Ophelia Collins Henry. It’s hard to believe, but it’s been 28-plus years since the death of this pioneer, so it is time to do this tribute to her, the first black female bus driver for the Goose Creek CISD.
Ophelia Collins Henry was born on Nov. 4, 1918 in Church Point, Louisiana. She resided in Beaumont for awhile before she moved to Baytown and lived a number of years.
Henry died Oct. 12, 1991 in a Houston hospital at the age of 72. She was one of nine children born to the late Albert Collins and Oline “Nan” Collins of Chataiguier, Louisiana. She was preceded in death by both of her parents, one son and seven of her brothers and sisters.
Henry was united in marriage to Mr. Daniel Henry. Together this religious couple raised seven children.
Upon moving to Baytown she became a loyal member of Holy Family Catholic Church in McNair, where she was a member of the Altar Society. She was one individual who gave her all into serving God. Her love was extended to everyone she met and her love for the Lord was truly visible in her daily work. She extended her love and time to many young employees at Burger King through instruction and guidance, instilling in them principles for a lifetime.
Henry was the first black female bus driver for the Goose Creek CISD. She was responsible for transporting the black children of Cedar Bayou to and from the Baytown George Washington Carver High School in Baytown. She drove the bus for the Goose Creek CISD for 21 years. In the beginning, she had to drive the family station wagon for several years, before the school district decided to provide a bus for the black children of Cedar Bayou.
She had four sons, Huey Sonnier of Baytown, Urel James Henry, Bruce Henry and Roger Henry all of Houston, two daughters, Jo Ann White and Sandria Doyle of Channelview, a sister Bertha Johnson of Elton, Louisiana, 20 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren at the time of her death. She had two godchildren; Wilderine Landry Smith and Lyman James Collins, and numerous nieces and nephews and a host of other relatives and friends.
Henry had a Catholic Funeral Mass at Holy Family Catholic Church on Oct. 18, 1991 in McNair with Fr. Paul Oberg, S.S.J., Officiant. She was laid to rest at the White Chapel Cemetery in Highlands.
J. Warren Singleton is a local historian and Baytown resident.