2013 Greyhound Hall of Fame Inductee
Darby Henry, who celebrated his 85th birthday in 2013, has spent his entire life involved with racing greyhounds.
A native of Dow City, Ia., Darby was one of nine children of James Sr. and Harriet Henry. He and all five of his brothers followed their father’s footsteps into the game—either as breeders, owners or trainers of greyhounds. Their father, James Sr., who began raising greyhounds near the very dawn of track racing in 1925, was inducted into the Hall Of Fame’s Pioneer Section in 1984.
Barely big enough to walk, Darby started with small chores on the greyhound farm—helping out with feeding, watering and cleaning the young pups. In 1939, when Darby was 11, the family moved to a farm near Centralia, Mo., where he attended a one-room grade-school. That same year, Darby also attended his first greyhound track, just across the Mississippi River in W. Memphis, Ark.
At Centralia High, Darby played football and basketball. During his senior year, Darby—called the “diminutive fullback” by a local sportswriter– scored five touchdowns in a single game, a school record that still stands today.
After graduation, Darby ran a pool hall, and also tried his hand at farming, before finally deciding to pursue his own greyhound career. By 1948 he was training greyhounds for other kennels. In 1953, he started his own racing kennel with dogs raised by himself, as well as his dad and his brother, Kenneth.
The opening of Southland Greyhound Park in W. Memphis came in 1956, and Darby was one of the original kennel owners contracted to race. Darby competed there for 45 years, until the ownership of the kennel was transferred to his nephew, Darren Henry.
Darby also raced at Derby Lane for 27 years, giving up his booking in 1989 when Southland went year-round. At one point, Darby operated kennels at five different tracks: Southland, Derby Lane, VictoryLand, Bluffs Run and Birmingham. Some of the outstanding greyhounds to race for Darby included Credit Plan, Jenobar Scoop, Nicky Finn, Radar Search, Pamper It, Gwen Renee, Misty Kiss, Chrisco Pace and Tom S Green Mile.
The peak of Darby’s racing career came in the 1980s with the winning of several feature and stake races at St. Pete and the successful years at Southland. However, in 2001, the biggest win of his career came at the Woodlands with Tom S Green Mile’s come-from-behind win in the Futurity. The win purse was a staggering $155,143.01, earning Tom S Green Mile a place in the Guinness Book of World Records at the time for the most money earned in a greyhound race.
In 1975, the Arkansas Greyhound Association was organized by the Southland kennels, and Darby was elected its first president—holding that position for 30 years, until 2004. Darby was instrumental in getting legislation passed that ensured kennels at Southland would receive a fair portion of proceeds from the electronic games of skill. In 2012, when Darby retired for the AGA’s board of directors, the Association presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition and gratitude for 56 years of dedicated service. Five thousand dollars were donated to St. Michael’s Catholic School in Darby’s name.
Upon Darby’s retirement from racing in 2001, Darby was presented an appreciation plaque from general manager Barry Baldwin for his contribution to Southland racing.
Darby and his wife, Della (known by family and friends as Blondie), have four children—Bobby, Karen, Tommy and Harriet, who’ve all worked with the family greyhounds business at some time in their lives. Today, Darby enjoys being around his seven grandchildren and one great-grand child (with another on the way) from his home in Marion, Ark., where and he and Blondie have lived since 1963. He thanks the good Lord for his health, family and the many blessings he’s enjoyed throughout his life.