A Tribute to Henry Lee Lucas

By jane davis 3/15/01

HOPE-HOWSE lost a friend and supporter this week. Henry Lee Lucas, a man described as "one of Texas' most notorious convicted murderers" and "this country's most notorious serial killer", died.

On Monday night, March 12, Henry Lee Lucas, was found dead in his bed, in a Texas prison, of natural causes. Maybe no one cares. i do. i was with Henry the day Governor [now President] George Bush signed the papers that gave him life. "The Governor has just signed the papers," the Warden's secretary informed him hours before his scheduled execution. It is the only commutation Governor Bush ever signed. The moment hung in the air as if everything stopped, and then the tears came. Henry Lee put his hands up covering his face and embarrassment at showing emotion. "Cry, Henry!" i said. "Cry! Let it out!" Henry Lee was not a man to show emotion except for a smile. He was old, gray haired, bulging stomach that he worried about, one eye that looked at you, the other that was missing and kind of drooped, inviting you, in some macabre way to look. He once had a false eye but just as he had no money to get new teeth so he had no money to get a new eye. Thus, his body and missing parts added to the declining saga of Henry Lee Lucas.

Henry was a complicated yet simple man. His life was fraught with violence and abuse with caring souls peppered in here and there beginning with a teacher who stood up for him many years ago when, as a young boy his mother sent him to school dressed as a girl with long curly hair and dresses. No one knew, or no one cared or wanted to know what was really going on in that household. The sexual abuses, the violence, the dysfunction could only produce a human being that is struggling and *potentially* a danger to a society that demands near perfection and success in our "neighbors"; a society that does not want to hear the reality of the darkness all around us. We would rather avoid the gruesome details as if shoving reality under a rug will make it go away.

The only other time i ever saw Henry cry was when he talked about his closest childhood friend, his pony. A neighbor had given him a pony sensing, according to Henry, that he needed some companionship. "I used to confide in that pony," he once told me. "I loved her!" He would shake his head and his eye would cloud over remembering something good from his past. Remembering love. Remembering positive. The pony it turned out was pregnant. His mother, upon finding out, shot and killed the pony in front of Henry, the little boy, dressed as girl, and made him drag the heavy carcass into the woods and bury it. This loss was even greater than that of his father, who died in an alcoholic stupor, frozen in the snow, in front of their house after managing to drag his stumped body (he had no legs) out into a blizzard after escaping the physical abuse of Henry's drunken mother. One of Henry's childhood chores was to stand and watch his mother have sex with men she brought in off the streets and then to collect the money from them. These were the values and experiences that helped shaped the life and behavior of Henry Lee Lucas.

There are many books and films that have been done on "Henry Lee Lucas, the serial killer" with the focus on only the negative. Out of respect to the human being and man i came to know, albeit through a pane of glass ribboned with wire, i would like to share some of the positives of Henry Lee Lucas.

In a recent article a prison spokesman commented on Henry's work in the garment factory. "He spent all of his time running the sewing machine," he said. "He was our best." Henry was very proud of his work. All work for condemned men was halted after a prison escape by some death row prisoners a number of years ago. Henry's health declined accordingly.

Henry desperately wanted to help with the work of HOPE-HOWSE in any way he could. He mostly wanted to help with the kids. He shared things about himself, understanding that it might be of help to someone suffering as he had. He was adamant about helping them and in that i knew he was helping the child still buried deep within his own soul that still suffered. While many people balk at the "abuse" issues raised, we learn over and over and over again how abuse alters a human being. Henry Lee Lucas was born into this world an innocent, beautiful child, just like all of us. The things that the he suffered as a child are unconscionable. Abuse suffered as a child is not an excuse for behavior but it is a red light alert for potential repeated behavior as an adult.

This week "HOPE-HOWSE in Action", [a documentary produced by Malcolm Brenner of Eyes Open Communication in Albuquerque, NM] was released and screened at both the prison in which it was videoed as well as to kids in one of the juvenile detention facilities, in other words, juvenile jail. The video is of adult offenders sharing candidly including their childhood abuses and how it affected their lives. One intuitively knew that the kids watching the video were suffering their silent hells that keep kids and even adults quiet from shame and guilt that comes with being abused.

WE have work to do. All of us. And while Henry Lee Lucas was alive and living behind bars, he was able to be a productive member of society trying to share whatever he could from his past that might be of help and service to those of us out here today seeking answers and solutions to making a more peaceful world.

Thank you Henry Lee Lucas and thank you to all the prisoners and others who are sharing your lives through HOPE-HOWSE in a committed effort to spiritual peace through sharing our selves Honestly, Openly and Willingly, even the dark, our shadows that we don't want to always acknowledge.

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