The first time I met Henry Stone, I was a freshman in high school. Principal Ronnie Clark had selected some of us to go down to the radio station to shill for the latest school fundraising project. Henry Stone met us in the tiny reception area of the Favorite office.
Henry came through the wooden door on the radio side wearing a white, short-sleeved shirt with a narrow necktie, and I think, maybe, a pocket protector. In his horn-rimmed glasses, he was Clark Kent in a radio station rather than The Daily Planet.
But once we got back to Studio A and the "On Air" light came on, Henry became a Superman behind the microphone. His voice seemed to drop two octaves as he boomed out, "This is Henry Stone." You knew in an instant that the next words he would say would be true and you needed to hear them.
Henry Stone was also a Superman behind his trusty Royal typewriter, punching out hard truths in short, declarative sentences. Everything Henry typed was with carbon paper and three copies — one for the newspaper, one for the radio and one for the futures file.
Henry kept a file folder for everything, even the daily averages on the burley tobacco market. Henry Stone knew more about the City of Franklin general fund budget than any man who ever walked the earth. Henry Stone is the reason God invented midnight oil.
Henry could be a Superman with his Texas Instruments calculator too — crunching the numbers, balancing the books, holding the line on expenses. Those of us who worked for him used to joke that Henry opened his wallet once and Lincoln blinked from the sunlight. Most people don't know that Henry Stone gave most of his City Commissioner's salary to his church.
I think Henry liked numbers because he saw them as little facts in neat rows and columns. The facts don't lie, and Henry Stone was a "Just the facts, ma'am" kind of guy.
Henry could appear ill at ease in social situations. Without his microphone, he was Superman without his cape. But Henry loved people, and he had a forgiving heart. He was a devoted father and grandfather. He adored his sister Hallie. All his life he looked up to his older brother Vernon.
For many years, Henry was active in the Rotary Club. Rotarians have something they call the Four-Way Test. Henry was guided by its precepts, especially the one that asked, "Is it fair to all concerned?" Henry knew there are two sides to every story; he made sure everyone got his say. Competitor or political rival, Henry treated them all fairly.
If there is a Four-Way Test in heaven, Henry Stone will pass it, and I'll bet his final score will be recorded in triplicate — one for the newspaper, one for the radio, and one for the roll that is called up yonder.