Black Pioneers: Jeffrey Todd Henderson

Jeff Henderson
Photo courtesy of Team USA

While competing for Sylvan Hills High School in Sherwood, Jeffrey Todd Henderson became one of the top track and field athletes in Arkansas, excelling in the long jump. As a collegiate athlete, he developed into one of the top long jumpers in the United States, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. In 2016, he won the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, becoming the second Arkansas-connected athlete to win in the long jump.

Jeff Henderson was born on this date in 1989 in North Little Rock, to Laverne Henderson and Debra Henderson. He was raised in McAlmont, Ark. He is the youngest of five children. After high school, he attended Hinds Community College in Raymond, Miss. While at Hinds, Henderson won the National Junior College Athletic Association national title in the outdoor long jump in 2008 and 2009. He also won the indoor title in 2008 and a national title in 4×100 meters in 2009.

After attending Hinds, Henderson studied at Florida Memorial University from 2010 to 2011. During that time, he was National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics National Champion in the indoor 60-meter dash and All-American in the men’s 100-meter dash and the men’s long jump.

After a disagreement with the athletic department over treatment of an injury, Henderson transferred to Stillman College in Alabama. While there, he earned All-American status at the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II Men’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships by winning the 100-meter dash and the long jump.

After graduating from Stillman in 2013 with a degree in business administration, he teamed up with Al Joyner, a former gold medalist in the triple jump, as his coach, moved to California, and signed on with Adidas. Henderson won the long jump at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championship in 2014 and the Pan American Games in 2015.

During the Olympic trials in 2016, he secured a place on the team. To qualify for the finals, he jumped a wind-aided 28-2¼, his personal best and best in the Olympics. In the Olympic finals, he took the lead on his first jump but was eventually passed by three others. On his final attempt, he jumped 27-6 to regain the lead and win the gold medal. He was the first American to win the event since 2004 and the second Arkansan to win the gold in the long jump. In 1928, Eddie Hamm of Lonoke became the first to win the gold in the long jump. Henderson dedicated the victory to his mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s.

Henderson lives in California and continues to compete and train for the Olympics. He is also active in promoting the activities of the Arkansas chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.