Charles Henderson, NYSE Fourth-Generation Specialist, Dies at 88

Charles Henderson, whose family firm, Henderson Brothers Inc., was a leader in specialist floor trading in the pre-automation heyday of the New York Stock Exchange, has died. He was 88.

He died on May 29 of heart failure at Good Samaritan Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, his son, David, said yesterday in an interview. He had entered the hospital three weeks ago for emergency surgery and developed pneumonia, his son said. He lived in the exclusive Phipps Estate neighborhood of Palm Beach.

Henderson Brothers -- purchased in 2000 by LaBranche & Co. and now part of New York-based Cowen Group Inc. -- supplied one of Wall Street’s deepest family traditions. The company was founded in 1861 by Henderson’s great-grandfather, William T. Henderson, making Charles the fourth generation to run it. He was chairman of the firm from the mid-1960s, when he succeeded his father, John, to his retirement in the mid-1980s.

“When he was born, he had big shoes to fill,” said David Henderson, who carries on the family tradition as a broker with Dru Stock Inc. and Clancy Financial Services Inc., both in New York. “And he filled them better than anyone could have imagined.”

As specialists, Henderson traders had exclusive province over certain stocks. They were responsible for making markets in the trading of blue-chip companies including Ford Motor Co., American Express Inc. and, beginning in 1988, JPMorgan & Co., a predecessor of JPMorgan Chase & Co. Henderson was well known as the specialist for health-club company Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp., his son said.

Buffett’s Pick

James Maguire, who succeeded Henderson as chairman, was Warren Buffett’s choice as Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s specialist when it began trading shares on the NYSE in 1988.

In a 2011 profile, the Palm Beach Daily News quoted Henderson recalling the days when specialists clogged the NYSE trading floor.

“It was all going on down there at one time,” Henderson said, according to the article. “We were working with Bausch & Lomb, and all of a sudden they discovered these new lenses you could put in your eyes. The stock took off. Then another day, when it was running high, they find out the drops could hurt your eyes. The stock plunged.”

Also: “Parke-Davis, one of the big drug companies, came out with their birth control pill and supposedly the Pope was going to approve it. So the stock went wild. But he never did.”

Navy Service

Charles Fistie Henderson II was born on Dec. 15, 1924, and raised in South Orange, New Jersey. Named for his grandfather, he was the oldest of seven children of John C. Henderson and the former Marie Anita Walsh.

He attended Seton Hall Preparatory School and had begun his studies at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, when he was called to duty in the U.S. Navy in World War II. Following more than three years of service in naval air transport in the Pacific, he returned home and graduated from Seton Hall University in South Orange.

In 1948, he bought a seat on the New York Stock Exchange for $48,000.

“I borrowed the money from my grandmother and I paid her back,” he recalled, according to the Palm Beach Daily News. “But I was making $5,000 a year, which was a big deal.”

In New Jersey, where he and his wife raised their children in Rumson, Henderson was active with groups including the Navesink Country Club, the Monmouth Beach Bath & Tennis Club and Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft, which he helped found, his son said. In Palm Beach, he was active with the Everglades Country Club, the Sail Fish Club and Club Colette.

His wife of 62 years, the former Mary Louise Scatuorchio, died in August. They had six children, four of whom survive them -- David, of Shrewsbury, New Jersey; Guy, of Delray Beach, Florida; Jerome, of Palm Beach; and Mary Louise Clarke of Bernardsville, New Jersey.

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