David Mack Henderson
In April 2016, David Mack Henderson received the Chamber's 2015 Extra Mile Award, the organization's community service award sponsored by American Airlines. Below you can view David's award acceptance video and a brief biography.
Additional information on funeral services to take place on Thursday, December 15 will be posted on the Chamber's calendar as details become available.
Video produced by Mantra Communications.
About David Mack Henderson
When David was elected UT Arlington’s mascot “Sam Maverick” in 1980 he was asked to resign because he was gay. Not only did he say no, but David founded the Gay/Lesbian Association of UTA. Only eleven years post-Stonewall, this was one of the first school sanctioned GSA’s in the US. Now at 36 years, the GSA@UTA is older than official pride celebrations in both Fort Worth and Dallas.
Henderson led a similar LGBT group after transferring to UNT and helped start a state-wide coalition for the growing number of campus groups. In 1984 he joined the Board of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, managing daily operations at their fledgling community center. When the pandemic hit, David was part of the original board that hit the ground running by creating the AIDS Resource Center, thriving years later now as our Resource Center.
David is a Realtor and tax accountant, with clients that have included one of the original same-sex plaintiff couples in the 2003 Massachusetts Supreme Court decision first legalizing marriage equality. Within hours of the 2009 Rainbow Lounge Raid he was part of the core group organizing a protest and two days later a founding member of Fairness Fort Worth, serving since 2013 as President. In a few short years FFW has led Fort Worth from international outcry to a proactive new model of LGBT inclusion for mid-size cities throughout the US.
Through strategic partnerships recently Henderson has considerably leveraged LGBT community clout via FFW. Together with Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats he moderated at a city council candidate forum that participants called the toughest, most thorough vetting of their election cycle. With Health Education Learning Project (HELP), FFW has launched a countywide LGBT Comprehensive Needs Survey to broadly gauge priority initiatives. In anticipation of transforming into a provider of social services, with needs from youth to seniors, Henderson and FFW have initiated sustainable fundraising to create community engagement and buy-in.
When the White House sought Dallas and Fort Worth representatives to join efforts in launching targeted LGBT enrollment in Affordable Healthcare, especially to underserved and uninsured communities including ours, David was the only local voice in DC, probing and prodding as usual. FFW couldn’t afford to pay his way. But David decided our communities couldn’t afford not to be engaged. So he covered all costs himself, twice.
He convinced the White House to send a senior team to Tarrant County Pride for healthcare enrollment. They were swamped. David held them captive arranging meetings at United Way of Tarrant County, contractor for insurance navigators statewide. His arm-twisting resulted in LGBT Cultural Competence Training so all Texas citizens can speak to health insurance counselors who appreciate our particular needs and family configurations.
Henderson revitalized a relationship between LGBT citizens and the Fort Worth City Council when they agreed to add support for a comprehensive ENDA back onto the city’s legislative agenda. Prior to the historic Obergefell decision, in partnership with Resource Center he exposed the reluctance of many local and state agencies to provide pension and other benefits to same-sex married employees in compliance with Windsor and IRS Revenue Rulings. Several major state funds such as TRS and TCDRS totaling nearly two million participants responded by re-evaluating their position and opting for “operational compliance” even in light of unfriendly state law, opening up long-withheld participation to potentially hundreds of thousands of LGBT public sector employees throughout Texas.
As Fort Worth questioned pension benefits for same-sex married employees, David utilized his tax skills to persuade city management and other decision makers to weigh in with the proactive choice of leading by inclusion. Fort Worth’s embrace of its LGBT workforce became a best-practice model for other cities struggling with this question and aided in similar adoption several months later in Dallas, protecting their employees and retirees.
When the Supreme Court handed down their landmark Obergefell decision last June, David, sensing reticence among some local office holders, had already conducted necessary negotiations with the Republican Tarrant County Clerk and District Attorney so that the first marriage license issued that day in DFW happened to come from Downtown Fort Worth.
Ten days later he got a shock. A Republican judge appointed Henderson as Foreman of the Tarrant County Grand Jury, and he became the first openly gay countywide official (albeit appointed) in Tarrant County history. Henderson presided over 1,630 docket cases during the three-month term.
Many LGBT leaders knew that after the marriage ruling there would be pushback, especially in more conservative corners. Henderson handles calls on such continuing issues as targeted bullying in schools, job discrimination, marriage equality passport, insurance, and tax matters. He also secured from the State of Texas clarification that permits same-sex couples are entitled to register Common-Law Marriages in all counties, with the official date of marriage actually pre-dating Obergefell, as far back as the couple has declared themselves married.
Currently Henderson and FFW are partnering with Rafael McDonnel and Resource Center, among others, on a comprehensive schools project aimed at making certain all pertinent personnel are fully informed not only of the law regarding LGBT students, families, staff and faculty, but understand that failure to comply will no longer be passed off because they never saw the memo.
Henderson frequently teaches LGBT Awareness classes for the City of Fort Worth, Arlington Police, FWISD and Birdville ISD counselors, Tarrant County College, UNT, TCU and others. In 2015, after his instruction in thirty-two four-hour classes within twelve months, Arlington became the second city in the Southern US to have fully trained its police department with LGBT cultural competence. Henderson followed that up with their Parks and Recreation Department staff. Now, over half of Arlington’s employees are trained in LGBT cultural competence. This has recently paved the way for an APD officer to transition on the job. Henderson continues to serve the APD as a resource for a smooth process. An HIV positive stakeholder, Henderson served six years on the team allocating $5mill in federal Ryan White HIV/AIDS funds annually for 38 counties in North Central Texas.
As fulfilling as all of the above has been, he shares that his greatest joy has come from serving as a mentor for LGBTQA youth. Over the last five years Henderson has nurtured in primary or secondary paternal roles: one boy bullied, one who needed space for questions, one rejected by family and completely homeless, and one in dire need of better educational offerings. The first three have all graduated and begun college; the fourth is a HS Jr., and well on his way.
He quotes a phrase he saw, where else, on Facebook: Be the role model you wish you had growing up.