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Richard A. Henson gives $250,000 to Scouts

January 21, 1999

Richard HensonBy SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




Speaking near the Hagerstown Regional Airport airfield that bears his name, Richard A. Henson announced a major donation Wednesday: $250,000 to the Mason-Dixon Council, Boy Scouts of America.

This donation follows his April 1998 donation of $1 million to the Hagerstown YMCA's capital campaign to build a new facility on Eastern Boulevard.

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Henson made Wednesday's donation after flying his small corporate jet into the airport earlier in the day.

About 40 county officials, business people and others gathered at the airport Thursday night for the formal dedication of the Richard A. Henson Field and to honor Henson.

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The Washington County Commissioners gave him a written proclamation and the Washington County Airport Commission showed him a picture and a plaque that will be placed on the walls of the airport passenger terminal.

"This is an important, humbling occasion for me," said Henson.

The event made him reflect on his years at the airport, he said.

Henson said he realized his boyhood dream in 1931 when he started Henson Flying Service at the airport, offering plane rides, flight lessons, fuel and service. He also was a test pilot for Fairchild Aircraft from 1931 - seven years before the airport was dedicated - until 1964.

The $250,000 donation to the Boy Scouts by Henson, a former Boy Scout, coincided with the Mason-Dixon Boy Scout Council's kick-off of its "Investment In Character" campaign. The Council wants to raise $1.36 million for improvements at and an endowment for Camp Sinoquipe.

"I hope it is helpful to start off the campaign with a gift of that nature," said Henson. "I am a true believer in the benefits of Boy Scouts."

With donations from Henson, the council and a few other former Scouts, the drive has $597,775, said campaign co-chairman Hugh Breslin.

Camp Sinoquipe, 2.5 miles north of Fort Littleton, Pa., celebrated its 50th anniversary in June.

On Oct. 7, 1998, the Washington County Commissioners changed the name of the airport from the Washington County Regional Airport to Hagerstown Regional Airport-Richard A. Henson Field.

Henson was in the hospital, recovering from double knee replacement surgery, at the time.

The name change was recommended by William Wellman, who worked with Henson while he was Hagerstown finance director in the late 1970s.

"In addition to being a philanthropist and an aviation pioneer, he was a true American hero," Wellman said.

Henson has remained involved in community affairs even though he moved to Salisbury, Md., in 1980.

Henson began Henson Aviation Inc., a commuter airline, in 1962. The company started as a shuttle service from Hagerstown to Washington, D.C., but it served 42 cities by the time Henson sold the airline to Piedmont Aviation in 1983.

Henson remained chairman and chief executive officer of the subsidiary until 1989, when the company was bought by USAir. He is still board chairman of the subsidiary.

He set up the Richard A. Henson Foundation Inc. in Salisbury in 1990. His other large donations include $2 million to revitalize the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore campus in Princess Anne, Md.

While he wants to help worthy causes he does not expect the foundation to make large donations in the near future, he said.

"The well is running pretty dry," he said.

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