James Edward ‘Jim’ Henley, 69, of Sacramento and Tucson, Ariz., died Monday, May 12 from leukemia.
He was born in Sacramento and grew up in Oakdale, the youngest of three sons of R.F. ‘Bud’ Henley and Em Henley. He graduated from Oakdale High School, attended Modesto Junior College, UC Berkeley, and earned a history degree in 1966 from Sacramento State College.
As a Sacramento State graduate student he was introduced to Old Sacramento, which at the time was the city’s skid row. In the mid-1960s he began working for the city and led the Sacramento Historic Landmarks Commission. He was appointed to oversee the restoration of Old Sacramento and was widely credited with transforming the formerly run-down neighborhood into an authentic historic district. His preservation efforts also contributed to the restoration of the historic Memorial Auditorium, the B.F. Hastings Building, the Old City Cemetery, as well as establishing the California State Railroad Museum.
Mr. Henley was the official city historian of Sacramento. He retired in 2007 after nearly 40 years as Manager of the Sacramento Archives and Museum Collection Center (now known as the Center for Sacramento History). Under his leadership, the SAMCC collection became the largest city archives in California, comprising some five-and-a-half miles of shelves filled with Sacramento history, and second only to the state archive. He also served as the City Historian Emeritus Member on the board of the Sacramento History Foundation.
He is featured in 55 recorded video segments on the Center for Sacramento History’s YouTube channel called “Small Bites of Sacramento History.”
He was a well-known and widely-respected figure in Sacramento. He was an erudite man and gifted storyteller of Sacramento history. He cared deeply for the Sacramento community and preserving its history.
In recent years, he and his wife divided their time between a midtown Sacramento Victorian and a home in Arizona.
He is survived by his wife of 35 years, Paula Henley of Sacramento and Tucson, Ariz.; brothers, Ronald Henley, William (Diane) Henley of Oakdale; nephews, Robert (Jennifer) Henley of Massachusetts, R. Quinn (Amy) Henley of Livermore, David Henley of Texas; and niece, Dawn Henley (Brian) Carden of Manteca.
He was preceded in death by his parents.
A memorial will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 14 at the Center for Sacramento History, 551 Sequoia Pacific Blvd., Sacramento.
In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made to the Jim Henley Endowment, c/o the Historic Old Sacramento Foundation, 551 Sequoia Pacific Blvd., Sacramento, CA 95811.