In Memoriam: Troy, Alabama, Councilmember Dejerilyn King Henderson
Growing up in the segregated South during a turning point in American history, Councilmember Dejerilyn King Henderson found inspiration and motivation through her own accounts to continue the movement beyond the Civil Rights Era.
Attending a segregated school system in her early years inspired her to become a teacher. After 33 years serving her community in the classroom, Dejerilyn felt inspired to create even bigger changes, focusing on providing a voice and representation to the undeserved communities of Troy.
In 1982, Henderson sued the city of Troy. This lead to a change in the form of government: the city went from a three-member commission to the current mayor and five single member districts. The lawsuit also pushed for more accurate representation, providing fair opportunity for anyone to run in the predominately black district. She began her service as a councilmember in 2010 and was recently re-elected in August.
She continued to show resilience, leadership and forward thinking by participating on the NLC Board of Directors, as well as in NLC's Women in Municipal Government (WIMG) and National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials (NBC-LEO) constituency groups.
In an interview with NLC in 2014, Henderson said,"Local governments are in need of people who are willing to learn to network and develop effective communication skills; this willingness allows opportunities to create positive changes for all people." She worked effortlessly on the behalf of her constituents and community. NLC greatly appreciates her service and dedication to her city and this organization.
“We called her DJ. That's what everyone knew her by. She was totally committed to serving the people. She was passionate about her work and the City of Troy. She was passionate about her early years of teaching, and she was willing to help anybody - even officials in our capacity. If there was anything she could do to help and give us advice, especially to young elected officials, she would do so. The things I will miss most about her are her genuine smile and witnessing her commitment to the people of Troy, Alabama, and how she wanted to make a difference in the political aspects of her community. She was just a genuine person."
– Councilmember Cleophus King, Bessemer, Alabama
"We will miss Councilmember Henderson tremendously for her leadership and courage to stand up for what she believed in, which resulted in change to better her city. She will be dearly missed at WIMG and NBC-LEO. It was an honor to have worked with her these last few months through the constituency groups."
– Anna Lopez-Buck, Program Director, Constituency Group Programs, National League of Cities