Clayton H. Henshaw III, 1934-1991
Clay Henshaw was a local activist who fought for the rights of those with disabilities on the Ozarks.
In 1953, Henshaw became paralyzed and began using a wheelchair after a motorcycle accident.
In a 1990 News-Leader article, Clay was quoted about adjusting to having a disability. “I didn’t know how to act or anything like that,” he said. “I could have looked at somebody else and said, ‘Gee whiz, their life is going on. They’re still doing daily activities.”
He said that his best role model throughout life was his father, who did not have a disability and who impressed upon him that life sometimes “gives you bad breaks and you just go on with it.”
He was later known as a role model and inspiration to others with and without disabilities.
From 1975 until his death, Henshaw worked as the Master Control Operator at KOZK Channel 21. There he was known as an example to others. He did not want people to think that because he had a disability he was treated differently.
Today, Clay’s contributions to the community reach everyone.
In 1978, Henshaw initiated and drafted the building code for accessible public buildings in Springfield, which led to curb cuts and other accessibility features that benefit the entire community.
Henshaw also served on the board of directors of the Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. In 1977, Springfield’s first accessible public transportation began from his role on the Advisory Committee for implementation of the Special Services Bus system and the 504 Advisory Committee to Springfield City Utilities for accessible public transportation.
Clay was a charter member of Springfield’s Handicapped Enforcement Action Team. Established in 1991, H.E.A.T. had the power to issue tickets to anyone parked illegally in accessible parking zones.
Over the years, Henshaw represented people with disabilities on the Greene County Advisory Committee for Voter Registration; on the Advisory Committee for Land Clearance and Redevelopment Authority in Springfield, disbursement of community development funds; Citizen’s Advisory Committee to Springfield Park Board for evaluation of public parks for disability accessibility; and Southwest Missouri Easter Seals Society Board of Directors 1978-1982.
From 1987 until his death, Henshaw served on the Southwest Center for Independent Living (SCIL) Board of Directors. In 1991, through generous donations in honor of Henshaw, SCIL started the Renovations and Modification Projects (RAMPS) program. Still today, RAMPS assists low income people with disabilities make accessibility modifications to their homes to allow them to live safer and more independent in their own homes and the community.
The Honoring People With Disabilities Wall at The Southwest Center for Independent Living (SCIL) recognizes people of the Ozarks with disabilities. Nomination forms available at SCIL offices or can be submitted online at www.swcil.org.
Contact us for a nomination form or visit Honoring People with Disabilities.