Generation X (born 1964 - 1981)
Holly Denise Ellison Henderson was born in Cheverly, MD. Her father, a naturalized German citizen, was a member of the United States Secret Service, Uniformed Divison at the White House. Her mother, a native of Petersburg, Virginia, was an educator with Prince George's County Public Schools.
Holly was baptized and confirmed at St. Luke's church in Bladensburg, Maryland, and resided in Prince George's County through age five. She was reared in Jacksonville, Florida where she attended Duval County Public Schools and graduated in the top 5% of her class at Duncan U. Fletcher High School in 1992. Holly enjoyed playing clarinet with her award-winning symphonic band and performing in halftime football shows with the Marching Senators. Holly held several leadership positions at Fletcher, including serving as president of the Student Government and participating as a contestant in the Miss Fletcher pageant, and delivering the morning school-wide announcements on her own TV show, where she became known as "Miss Channel One." Holly received a presidential scholarship to college to further her communications studies and interned with local TV news outlets.
Holly attended the University of North Florida where she majored in Broadcast Journalism, earning a B.A. Communications degree. She also attended Morgan State University and majored in Transportation Management from the School of Engineering, earning a M.S. Transportation degree.
Holly worked a variety of jobs and eventually landed with Continental Airlines, Inc. as a ticket/gate/ramp agent at Jacksonville International Airport and later took to the skies as an international flight attendant based in both Houston, Texas and Newark, New Jersey. Holly’s travels enabled her to see about 11% of the world. She has served as a political appointee for both Republican and Democratic governors. Using her communications background and airline experience, Holly was tapped by the gubernatorial administration of Robert L. Ehrlich to serve as a media liaison for Thurgood Marshall BWI Airport as Deputy Director of Communications under the Maryland Department of Transportation. She was promoted to head the Public Affairs Office, where she led a staff of 14 employees, at the Maryland Transit Administration which served over 93 million customers each year where she served under the O'Malley administration. While at the MTA, Holly hosted both a weekly taped radio program and a live radio show. She also hosted the six-time national Telly Award-winning cable news program, "In Touch With the MTA." During the midst of all the hustle and bustle, Holly met and married federal employee Michael Henderson of Fort Washington, Maryland. Holly bid farewell and decided to off-ramp to become a full-time homemaker and mother. Holly devotes her time advocating for and educating her three Uniquely Special children on the Autism Spectrum who also face comorbid health challenges.
Holly describes her most significant life accomplishments as finding the love of her life and surviving three cesearean sections, all the while uncovering roots to her family tree using genetic genealogy. Her self-published book, Riley Road: Navigating the Path to Discover My 6th Great Grandfather, Jacob Riley, documents the seven-year research journey of Holly Henderson and her paternal family lineage. This book outlines the research methodology Holly used to break down Civil War-era brick walls of her mixed-race Georgia family.
In her "spare time" Holly enjoys baking, reading, swimming, and debating in all things related to the trifecta of all conversation related to media, politics, and religion. She adores alliteration, genetic genealogy, and marvelous monograms. She is also a Third Order Lay Dominican (OP). A descendant of Revolutionary War patriots, preachers, teachers, authors, farmers, moonshiners, and famous rabbis, politics and religion are in her DNA.
Holly and her husband now share their home in the lowcountry area of Charleston, South Carolina with three extraordinary children who enjoy talk radio and frequent trips to visit their uncle, two aunts, and numerous cousins in northeast Florida.
Oral History Summary
Autism Advocate. Ancestors’ genetic morse code.
Holly discusses raising three Uniquely Special children on the Autism Spectrum, each with accompanying health challenges, after leaving her position as a gubernatorial appointee working as the Deputy Director of Communications for BWI Airport and subsequently being selected to be the Director of Communications for the Maryland Transit Administration. She tells her story of flying to Munich, Germany to search for her German grandmother at the age of 14 as her German-born father, who was legally adopted by his black birth father to come to the United States, had lost contact with his mother for 42 years; studying journalism at the University of North Florida; working as a flight attendant, beginning her career with landing gear failure; ending her airline career after a possible encounter with 9/11 terrorists; earning a M.S. in Transportation Management at Morgan State University; leaving the workforce to care and advocate for children with special needs who often end up incarcerated at higher rates; her third great grandfather Peter G. Morgan, who was born into slavery, was selected to write the new Virginia state constitution, was one of first blacks in the Virginia House of Delegates, and was a Presidential appointee working as a Postmaster in Richmond; solving the mystery of who is the father of family patriarch Preston Riley, descendant of Revolutionary War patriot Jacob Riley; learning that Preston’s father was T.J. Riley, a white man who had a relationship with a slave named Sally, petitioned the court to take care of their sons, and left land to her; feeling a deeper sense of patriotism and loyalty to her country because of her ancestors' fight for freedom for the United States; finding her place in history; deciding to follow Marian Anderson's lead of moving toward forgiveness by joining the Daughters of the American Revolution and representing women of color because "these are our ancestors too"; authoring the book Riley Road: Navigating the Path to Discover My 6th Great Grandfather, Jacob Riley, detailing her genealogy research methodology.
Holly Henderson's oral history was recorded on August 30, 2020
Membership State: South Carolina
DAR Patriot Ancestor(s)
Riley, Jacob: North Carolina
European Descent Male
Riley, John: North Carolina
European Descent Male