Brad Henderson would have celebrated his 66th birthday this week (Aug. 15), but he was killed in an automobile accident almost 50 years ago on Labor Day, Sept. 7, 1964. He and his girlfriend, Diane Driggars, died instantly when their automobile was struck head on by a drunk driver at the intersection of Wesleyan Drive and Riverside Drive near what is now The Shoppes at River Crossing.
You have to wonder what kind of athletic career he would have had if he had lived. If his youth and high school accomplishments were any indication, I think it would have been something special. The oldest of four children of legendary head coach Billy Henderson and his wife, Fosky, Brad came to Macon as a fifth-grader in 1958 when his dad took over as athletics director and football head coach at the new Willingham High School.
Brad played all the ball sports -- football, basketball and baseball -- and excelled in all three, especially baseball. He led Macon to a state Little League title in 1961. Needing a win in the District 5 finals to make it to the state tournament, he had two hits, including a home run to power Macon to an 8-2 win over Vine Ingle.
In the opening game of the state tournament against Marietta, he pitched a two-hitter, striking out 10 and went 3-for-4 at the plate with a grand slam home run. Against Athens in the second round, he had a two-run homer. In the Southeast Regionals against Charlotte, North Carolina, he had a double, triple and a home run in a 3-2 loss, and in the consolation game, he had two home runs and was the winning pitcher in a 7-1 victory over Clarksville, Tennessee. In 25 games during that little league season, he batted .564 and set a state Little League record for home runs with 17, including two grand slams. He was 8-0 as a pitcher. In addition to pitching, he played third base, second, left field and catcher.
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He was a baseball starter as a ninth- and 10th-grader at Willingham, and in his sophomore season he batted .357.
Donnie Meeks, who played with Henderson in Little League, Pony League and high school and was a standout in his own right in youth baseball as well as at South Georgia College and Newberry, said that baseball was Brad’s first love. Meeks says he never saw a player with a sweeter swing. He said it was picture perfect, and he thought Brad had the tools to become a professional baseball player.
Henderson also starred in football at Willingham. As the Rams’ starting quarterback as a sophomore, he set program records for touchdown passes in one game (three), touchdown passes in one season (eight) and the longest touchdown pass in program history (78 yards to Rosby McKenzie). In his only game as a junior, he connected on 10-of-20 passes for a program record 173 yards in a 25-0 win over Warner Robins. The Demons’ quarterback was future governor Sonny Perdue.
In between football and baseball, Henderson was a key player on the hardwood for the Rams. He averaged 21 points per game as a sophomore for the Willingham B-team.
It’s almost a certainty he would have followed in his father’s footsteps and played at Georgia, where the elder Henderson was a baseball and football standout in the late-1940s.
Brad Henderson Memorial Stadium. located on Anthony Road just across the street from where he was a baseball star for Macon Little League, was dedicated Sept. 2, 1965 almost a year after his death.
Contact Bobby Pope at email@example.com