Henry Ward Pickett Jr. was a father, husband, son, colleague, activist and friend. But who was he? His daughters set out to answer this question. They were but children – Keri age 6 and Kim age 1 – when their father took his own life. Forty-five years later, reading their father’s suicide letter together awakens their curiosity. A mission is born, to find out what made Henry tick and come to terms with his tragic death in 1966 at age 32.
Calling the law firm where he once worked, they miraculously locate a box of professional and legal papers, archived for 40 years. Included in ‘The Box’ was ‘My Story,’ a first hand and previously unknown account of their father’s passion for justice – namely his volunteer work in St. Augustine, Florida in 1965 and his role in helping to uphold the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
With the cache of precious letters, photos, documents in hand, and with their mother to support and guide them, the sisters assemble a picture of their father’s life — from his childhood in Durham, North Carolina, the high school and college years where he made friends to last a lifetime, and his journey to Duke Law School at a time when the civil rights movement was getting off the ground.
Henry moves the family to Minnesota in 1963 to clerk for U.S. Federal District Judge Earl Larsen, and becomes an activist within the Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) during its storied years when Senators Hubert H. Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy were national leaders. Eventually landing a place at the Ramsey County Attorney’s office, Henry played a key role in upholding justice in one of Minnesota’s most infamous murders-for-hire; T. Eugene Thompson. His passion for justice contrasts starkly with professional disappointments that haunt him.
“Finding Henry” tells not just the story of a man who died tragically by his own hand, it also chronicles his daughters’ journey to find out who he really was and how that journey changed them.