Tag Archives: Clayton Henson Farnham

Kitty and Clayton Farnham

Clayton Henson Farnham (right) and wife Kitty display a medal won by Wylie Clayton Henson (1904H), Farnham's grandfather and Berry's first graduate.

Clayton Henson Farnham never attended a class at Berry, but he still sees himself as a beneficiary of its life-changing mission. His fortunes – and those of his family – were forever changed when his grandfather, Wylie Clayton Henson (1904H), made the decision to trust Martha Berry more than a century ago.

A founding partner in his own Atlanta law firm, Farnham recently visited the Berry campus, delighting his hosts with the story of how his grandfather came to be the institution’s first graduate. He also presented the college with a special memento to be shared by the Berry Alumni Center and The Martha Berry Museum – a Demosthenian Society debate medal won by Henson as a student at the University of Georgia.

“The medallion was a tangible, hold-in-your-hand piece of what Martha Berry had kicked into forward motion,” Farnham stated. “There had been no dream of anything like that.”

Henson was a 19-year-old itinerant teacher in the backwoods of Northwest Georgia when Miss Berry happened upon him in the early days of the 20th century. Learning that the young man wished to become a lawyer, the Berry founder suggested that he pursue his dream at her new school. His interest piqued, Henson asked, “How high can you take me?” Her response: “How high do you want to go?”

Farnham’s grandfather earned his high school diploma from Berry in 1904 and later finished second in his college class at Georgia, where he displayed a keen eye for business by supplying coal for heating to his fellow students. The education he received at Berry and UGA provided the foundation for a long and successful career as a lawyer. He maintained a lifelong friendship with the woman who helped make it all possible, serving as the first president of the Berry Alumni Association and on occasion providing pro bono legal advice for her schools.

“She gave him access [to knowledge],” explained Farnham. “She showed him where the door was and put him in places to learn to use it and to do these things for himself. And, of course, there’s a tremendous amount of intellectual satisfaction in that, and he was someone who was intellectually excitable. This was his particular joy.”

Reflecting on how Martha Berry’s vision helped broaden the horizons of an entire family, Farnham noted, “Everything was different … the rest of us got started with this kind of platform behind us of standards and knowledge to be able to do well. You could certainly call it a starting point in a very real sense.”

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