The Passing of Comrade Henderson (1957)
Obituary from the Nov-Dec 1957 issue of The Western Socialist
Comrade Walter Henderson was born at Fifeshire, Scotland, one of a family of twelve brothers, and came across to Canada in 1911. He had been raised in a strict religious environment. In about 1913-14 some comrades first contacted him at Brandon, Manitoba, where he was conducting a Sunday school class in St. Paul’s church. In 1914 with the outbreak of World War I work was disrupted and suspended in that part of Canada. Henderson, with thousands of others, lost his job. He drifted into Winnipeg and hung around the Labor Temple where he met some members of the Socialist Party of Canada. He listened to them attentively, and by the time the war was over he had dropped his religion completely and was an enthusiastic member of the Winnipeg Local of the Socialist Party of Canada.
For a time he worked on the Winnipeg Street Railway. During the Winnipeg strike he was a most valiant and militant fighter. Later on he went to work in the Fort Rouge Railroad shops, where workers in the boiler department made him a delegate to the Trades & Labour Council.
In 1923 Henderson came to Los Angeles. He got a job at the trade he had learned back in Scotland — plastering. With no jobs available in the depression, 1929, he and his wife Bridget, started a small bakery. After about four years of this he found himself back in the plasterer’s game.
From 1923 on he was a member of the Plasterers’ Local No. 2. For thirty years he was their delegate to the Los Angeles Central Labor Council and for about two years he was a business agent.
The present writer knew Com. Henderson for forty years, having worked with him most of the time. We both were charter members of Local Los Angeles WSP back in 1931. It was always a pleasure to be in his company. At all our social gatherings he was the life of the party. He was active in Party work until the very last. I ’phoned him about three hours before he passed away. He was, as always, full of enthusiasm, telling me he had just written four letters to San Francisco comrades making arrangements for them to hear tape recordings heard at recent WSP conference at Boston.
On Sunday, November 10th, two days before he passed away, our local group met at a comrade’s house. He was full of fun, but said he was not feeling up to par. He told us at this time he was much concerned about increasing the sale of our papers on the newsstands. He was also elated that he had collected $18.00 to send to the national office. I do not remember him ever missing a business meeting unless he was out of town.
Our comrade had hundreds of friends in the labor movement, many of whom disagreed with his Socialist principles but respected his sincerity. He was always outspoken and never hesitant in exposing those whom he thought were guilty of deception and hocus pocus in the labor movement.
At his funeral several hundred crowded the two rooms of the funeral parlor, with as many more unable to get inside. A summarized account of his life in the Socialist movement was given by W. A. Pritchard, a friend of his with whom he had worked in the Socialist Party of Canada years before.
He is survived by his widow, who shared with him the same social concepts of life, and two married daughters He is also survived by a brother Dave, with whom many of the comrades are well acquainted. To the entire family we extend our deepest sympathy at their great loss.
His passing is an irretrievable loss to all that knew him as a Socialist. All we can do now is to say farewell to a loyal friend and ardent comrade. We will carry on.