Notes from the Reel World: The Board President's Column, January / February 1999
When I began work last fall on a year-end LIFE Magazine special for CBS, I had no idea how personal the subject would become by its air date. LIFE REMEMBERS was conceived as a tribute to the lives and legacies of the famous and the unknown who had passed away during 1998. During the final weeks of production, I learned of Henry Hampton's death.
My personal relationship with Henry was not nearly long enough. But the time we did share—especially the conversations we had—remain as deep and lasting memories. One of my favorites is recalling our mutual chuckle whenever we finally heard the other's voice on the telephone after yet another round of telephone tag!
Like many of you, my first acquaintance with Henry was through his landmark civil rights documentary, Eyes on the Prize. To this day, I am in awe of the vision and spirit he brought to his work. He not only made a great documentary, he touched the lives of everyone who has or will see it in the future.
Henry's life and his work were one: he was drawn to the civil rights movement in the 1960s and worked for the Unitarian Universalist Church at its headquarters in Boston. During a civil rights march in Selma in 1965, Henry first envisioned Eyes on the Prize. The acclaim that has been given to those many hours of "documentary television at its best" broke ground for his company Blackside, and for us all.
Like all filmmakers, Henry struggled to realize his projects, but he endured overwhelming personal challenges as well. From the age of 15 when he was stricken with polio, through his battle with lung cancer and the side effects of chemotherapy, Henry endured. Despite all this, he had a profound influence on the way we tell stories and on this nation's struggle to reach equity, justice and opportunity for everyone.
All too often we do not express to one another the gratitude, love, respect and admiration we have while we can. Henry's eloquence last year at the lDA awards reminds me that, indeed, he did know how much we cared.
I shall always remember Henry as a mentor, a dedicated social activist, a colleague and, most importantly, a friend. I long for another round of telephone tag—and to hear his voice again.
Henry, we miss you... and your legacy lives on.