Richard 'Jud' Henderson, Gibson Island author and longtime sailor, dies

Richard "Jud" Henderson, an author and illustrator who turned his love of sailing, maritime subjects and the Chesapeake Bay into a series of books, died Feb. 18.

Richard "Jud" Henderson, an author and illustrator who turned his love of sailing, maritime subjects and the Chesapeake Bay into a series of books, died Feb. 18 of a ruptured appendix at the Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis. He was 91.

"I got to know Juddy primarily through his books, and we struck up a friendship," said Walter B. Mitchell, a Ruxton resident who spent summers on Gibson Island.


"As a yachtsman, he had an incredible ability to read the wind, take star sightings and reduce this to a line of positions. He did it the old-fashioned way, using a sextant. He didn't have GPS," said Mr. Mitchell.

"I believe his training as an artist helped him see the intangible — whether it was weather [by] looking at the clouds, which could have an impact on the weather, and the waves on the water. He took advantage of all of that, especially when racing," he said.


The son of Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge William Lynn Henderson and Vera Price Henderson, a homemaker, Richard Henderson was born in Baltimore and raised in the Green Spring Valley until 1937, when the family moved to Gibson Island.

"His father gave him the name of Jud, and that's what he has been called all of his life," said his wife of 69 years, the former Sarah Elder Symington, a retired school administrator. "If anyone calls asking for Richard Henderson, I knew they didn't know my husband."

"When he was born, he looked so serious that my grandfather, who was later a judge, said he looked a sober as a judge, so the judge morphed into Jud," said his daughter, Sarah L. Cramerof Annapolis.

He attended Gilman School and graduated in 1942 from the Severn School. From 1943 to 1945, he served in Hawaii with the Army Air Forces Emergency Sea Rescue program.

Mr. Henderson earned a bachelor's degree in 1951 from the Johns Hopkins University and a master's degree in fine arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art.

He was a founder and partner in 1951 of Henderson-Atherton Studio in Baltimore, where he worked as a writer and illustrator until the mid-1950s, when he left to become a self-employed author and artist.

During his nearly six-decade writing career, Mr. Henderson wrote 22 books, including a textbook, "Sail and Power: A Manual of Seamanship for the U.S. Naval Academy," with B.S. Dunbar.

Mr. Henderson's lifelong love of the Chesapeake Bay and boats began when he learned to sail at the age of 5.


"When Richard (Jud) Henderson was a tot, he was a familiar sight rowing his dinghy around the yacht basin at Gibson Island, with a large sailor doll tucked in beside him," wrote James Holechek, The Sunday Sun's former sailing columnist, in a 1979 article.

"Juddy (Richard) Henderson, whose age is just 9 joyous summers, had his cup of happiness filled to the brim and splashing over yesterday," reported The Baltimore Sun in 1934. "Juddy, newly crowned champion of kid-boat skippers after winning the race series for that class of 'yachts,' played an important role in the winning of the Gibson Island-Bloody Point race, the season's long-distance classic for the Gibson Island Star Class fleet."

In 1960, Mr. Henderson wrote his first book, "First Sail for Skipper." Five years later came his second book, "Hand, Reef, and Steer." He was an editor of and contributor to "Dangerous Voyages of Captain William Andrews," by William A. Andrews, published in 1966.

Some of his other titles — many of which he illustrated — included "Singlehanded Sailing: The Experiences and Techniques of the Lone Voyager," "Sea Sense," "Choice Yacht Designs," "Heavy Weather Guide," "Philip L. Rhodes and His Yacht Designs," Understanding Rigs and Rigging," "Sailing at Night" and "Chesapeake Sails: A History of Yachting on the Bay."

One of his books, "East to the Azores," was inspired by a 1975 transatlantic trip aboard his 35-foot yawl, the Kelpie.

"He took his wife and two kids and took them across the ocean. It just goes to show you the strength and faith that his family had in him," said a longtime friend, Bob Rich of Annapolis.


Mr. Henderson, who had lived at BayWoods of Annapolis since 2003, also wrote a history of the Gibson Island Yacht Squadron.

"Jud was the go-to person when you wanted to find out the history of the yacht club that dates to the late 1920s," said Murray Leigh, a Gibson island resident.

During his time as commodore of the club from 1997 to 1998, Mr. Leigh presented Mr. Henderson with the Commodore's Award for his contributions to the organization. "He was quiet and just always helpful," said Mr. Leigh, a friend of 40 years.

Mr. Henderson was a self-taught jazz pianist and, during Friday happy hours, played with his group at the Gibson Island Yacht Club.

"The place would be packed. It was quite remarkable how good he was," said Mr. Leigh.

The Morning Sun


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Mr. henderson also wrote nonmaritime books, including "33 1/3: Van Dyke Parks' Song Cycle," about pianist and composer Van Dyke Parks. He finished his last book, "Lingering Repertoires, Jazz Standards and Ballads of the Golden Age," in the fall, and at the time of his death was acquiring photographs to accompany the text.


John Page Williams, a senior naturalist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation since the early 1970s, recalled that Mr. Henderson was a lifelong friend of Arthur Sherwood, executive director of the foundation from 1970 to 1981.

"He and Jud had been bad boys together and sailed a lot, right up to the end of Arthur's life," recalled Mr. Williams. "Jud was a dedicated conservationist, and Sally was on our board for 10 years. They are part of the foundation's foundation. They are the bedrock that we're built on. He lived a grand life and did it well."

In addition to being a member of the Gibson Island Yacht Squadron, Mr. Henderson was a member of the Cruising Club of America, Ocean Cruising Club, Slocum Society and the Baltimore Watercolor Club.

Plans for a gathering to celebrate his life are incomplete.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Henderson is survived by his son, Richard C. Henderson of Sarasota, Fla; and two grandchildren.