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Henry King, former USBA/BAA director, dies at 84.

Henry Brazell King, an iconic figure in the U.S. brewing industry, died on Tuesday.

Mr. King, who headed two beer industry trade associations with great distinction, was 84 years old. He served as president of the United States Brewers Association from 1961-1983, and as the executive director of the Brewers' Association of America from 1992-1998.

Henry King was born on April 2, 1921, in Providence, Rhode Island. His father was a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army, stationed on Liberty Island in New York Harbor. Henry took the ferry to school in Manhattan, where he attended LaSalle Academy. He went to Manhattan College on a scholarship provided by the Christian Brothers after the death of King's father.

In 1942, after graduating from Manhattan College, he enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve. He was assigned as the gunnery officer on LST-395 (a Landing Ship, Tank), attached to the Pacific fleet. Over the course of the war in the Pacific, his ship would win six battle stars and a naval unit commendation.

"I was a 90-day wonder when I went to sea," Henry recalled in a recent interview. "I knew nothing, and the other reserve officers were the same. But, within six to nine months, I think we were better sailors that the officers on the big ships, who were locked into their divisions. On a cruiser, if you were an engineering officer, that's what you did. On an LST, a handful of reserve officers did everything--conned ship, stood engineering watches, you name it."

LST-395 was part of Flotilla 5, which supported the later stages of the Guadalcanal campaign, and the U.S. amphibious advance through the Solomon Islands.

The U.S. did not have complete air or naval superiority in the Southwest Pacific theater in 1943, so manning an LST could be risky duty. Some who served on these vessels translated the acronym LST as "Large, Slow Target."

Henry often attributed his fearless and pugnacious temperament to an unknown Japanese fighter pilot who strafed his LST several times during an amphibious landing in the Solomons. King recalled that he hit the deck as the first shells fired by the Japanese fighter plane exploded just feet away. "I was so damn scared," he said, "but when the Zero came around again, I was angry. I stood up and shook my fist, and yelled 'you son-of-a-bitch.' And after that, I came to the realization that I never had to be scared of anybody or anything again."

Henry also decided that the Japanese would no longer strafe LST-395 with impunity. He was an inveterate deal-maker (even back in 1943) and he set about acquiring extra 20mm cannon and .50 cal machine guns. He had his sailors fabricate gun mounts for the extra weapons and weld the mounts to the deck and superstructure. Through his scrounging and swapping, the once unwarlike LST-395 was soon bristling with guns. It is notable that part of LST-395's naval unit commendation reads, "[This ship] helped to initiate use of increased armament for all LSTs to repel Japanese air attack."

And, as a historical footnote, on August 8th 1943, Henry was one of the watch officers when LST-395 picked up a group of wounded Americans at Rendova. One of the casualties loaded aboard was an emaciated Navy Lt.(jg) named John F. Kennedy, fresh from his PT 109 adventure.

Henry was awarded a Silver Star for gallantry during the Solomon Islands campaign, and also received the Purple Heart for wounds received in battle.

After the war, Henry worked for the United States Trade Mark Association from 1945 to 1952, culminating with his appointment as executive director, working to protect the trademarks and brand names of more than 200 major companies.

In 1952, he joined an advertising firm in Boston, John Donnelly and Sons, and two years later became executive vice president of the Cooperative Food Distributors of America in Chicago, representing retail food distributors.

Throughout the 1950's, King held a series of jobs, including Managing Director of the Super Market Institute in Chicago and Grocery Marketing Director at the J. Walter Thompson Advertising Agency in New York. In 1960, he became president of the Quaker City Grocery Co. in Philadelphia, where he founded the Shop N Bag chain. Two years later, King joined the United States Brewers Association (USBA).

When Henry was presented to the board of directors of the USBA as a candidate for president, the vote to approve him was almost unanimous. Only one director voted against his approval, and that was Bill Coors, former chairman of the Coors Brewing Company.

"I distinguished myself by not voting to approve Henry for that job," Bill says. "My reasoning was rather petty. I thought that with 15 kids, he would be too busy being a father to do a good job for us. I soon came to appreciate what a tremendous person he was, and how able he was. He did a magnificent job for the USBA, bringing the industry together in critical times. We became very close."

Over the course of two decades, Henry King built the United States Brewers Association into a powerful trade organization for the beer industry.

He presided over two potentially explosive product quality crises during the 1960s and 1970s.

In the 1960s, it was discovered that some breweries had been adding cobalt salts to beer as a foam stablilizer. Some consumers who drank large amounts of this beer developed serious heart problems, and a number of people died.

There was huge potential for damage to the integrity of the beer industry. "People were getting all sorts of heart problems," says Bill Coors. "Henry organized the industry to end this practice."

In a recent interview, Henry recalled that episode. "During the cobalt scare, the Siebel Institute people turned over all their files to us, at great risk to themselves," Henry said. "They were great brewing industry patriots."

But the brewing industry was not out of the woods yet. In 1978, the United States Brewers Association (USBA) learned of a study in Germany in which traces of nitrosamines had been discovered in some European beers at an average level of two or three parts per billion. High levels of this compound had been found to cause stomach cancer in laboratory animals.

"During the kilning process after germination, many maltsters used direct fire with oil or gas to dry the malt," recalls Bill Coors. "Oxides of nitrogen are a by-product of combustion, and when those combined with amino acids in the malt, nitrosamines were formed. It was embarrassing for the industry, although it turned out Coors was the only brewery in the country that didn't have nitrosamines in our beer, since we've always used steam heat."

Henry King directed the USBA to immediately inform the U.S. regulatory agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Food and Drug Administration, and the USBA issued a press release.

Although German researchers had discovered the problem, Henry found that German brewers and maltsters were recalcitrant about dealing with it. "The Germans lied about their use of indirect firing," Henry recalled recently. "The German brewers sent me a cable, titled 'Achtung' ordering me not to inform the FDA. But the Heineken people were first rate, and I got tremendous support from the U.S. maltsters."

American researchers soon confirmed the German scientific findings, proving that the compounds were formed during the malting process. Brewers were given six months to address the problem, and a process was developed to sulfur the malt to inhibit the formation of nitrosamines.

In another of Henry King's finest hours, he was instrumental in convincing the national U.S. brewers to back an excise tax differential for small brewers. A tax amendment bill on the excise tax differential was signed into law in 1976, and reduced the excise tax from $9.00 to $7.00 on the first 60,000 barrels. This measure undoubtedly saved a number of regional family-owned breweries, and paved the way for the microbrewing renaissance of the 1980s.

Henry was also a stalwart defender of the three-tier system. Back in 1993, he told Modern Brewery Age, "The whittling away of the three-tier system is continuing, and it is not going to go away. The wholesaler tier is under attack. We see it in the enormous success of the Wal-Marts and price clubs. The large chains want to buy direct, no question. The preservation of the three-tier system is critical for small brewers. If direct buying from chains becomes a way of life, there won't be any shelf space for small brewers."

Henry also fought equalization throughout his career. In 1996, he told Modern Brewery Age, "I've known the DISCUS (Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S.) position for 30 years, and I really have nothing to talk to them about. They won't rest on the issue of equivalency. Naturally, we oppose that. It comes down to a fundamental difference in the nature of the product."

And, in an interview last year, Henry expressed skepticism about brewers making spirits-branded flavored malt beverages. "Companies like Anheuser-Busch are very concerned about volume," he said, "but I am convinced this will come around to haunt them. It blurs the lines, and they should realize that. Equivalency will not go away, and the industry will not benefit through ties to distillers."

Through the years, Henry made many enduring friendships in the beer industry.

Gary Nateman, of Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP, served alongside Henry as general counsel for the USBA. "In my association with Henry, he was a friend more than a boss," Gary says. "He was a person who thought about others before he thought about himself. Of course he was Machiavellian to the extreme, and that's one of the things that made him such a great leader. I learned more from him than anyone I've dealt with in almost 40 years of practicing law."

Robert S. Weinberg, the noted statistician, was another long-time associate. "Life was a big game to Henry, and he played to win," Mr. Weinberg says. "I don't know if I've ever met someone who spent as much time helping people. He was an extraordinary man, and I really enjoyed working for him."

Phil Katz, former statistical director for the USBA and Beer Institute, knew Henry for 44 years. "In the years I've had the pleasure to know Henry," Phil says, "I found him to be an outstanding and talented executive, and at the same time, he was an extremely warm and thoughtful person, with a singular and dynamic personality."

Mac Brighton, chairman of Business Journals, Inc., corporate parent of Modern Brewery Age, recalls "I first met Henry in 1978 when I started in the brewing industry. At the time Anheuser-Busch and Miller were staunch supporters of USBA due to Henry's leadership. Through his consummate skill as a statesman, he was able to keep all their energy focused on defending the brewing industry. A lesser man would never have been able to do it. Henry was well liked and respected by all who knew him. The industry was lucky to have him as its representative for as long as it did. We are going to miss him."

Mark H. Rodman, who as general counsel for the National Beer Wholesalers Association was a sometime internecine opponent, recalls that their early jousting led to a lifelong friendship. "Henry King became my role model," Mark says. "He was a fascinatingly pragmatic statesman. We have lost the counsel and influence of a man of tremendous talent, judgement, goodwill, and lots of heart."

Outside the beer industry, Henry King had even greater impact. Starting in the late 1980s, Henry and his second wife Patricia began their own personal foreign aid program, assisting orphans in Honduras. Through the non-profit foundation they founded, they built five orphanages and a rural medical clinic in Honduras. Through their work, it is not an exaggeration to say that the lives of hundreds and perhaps thousands of children have been improved and in many cases, saved.

Henry was also a scholar. He served as a professor at Georgian Court University from 1984 -2004, a profession that delighted him. And as late as 2003, Henry was still serving as a lieutenant instructor for the U.S. Navy Sea Cadet Program at Naval Weapons Station Earle in Colt's Neck, NJ, teaching future naval officers about World War II naval campaigns. He delighted in the chance to wear his USN khaki uniform again, and occasionally even got the chance to put on his dress whites.

Henry resumed drinking beer in 2003, after a long hiatus while he had throat problems. "My throat healed. I can't have scotch on the rocks, but I have my beer," he told Modern Brewery Age in early 2004. "I drink only Bud Light and Coors Light at this point. Those products are great and I feel such affection for both companies."

Henry was a lifelong Democrat and a practicing Catholic. In the last year of his life, when he was quite ill, he set two goals for himself: to pull the lever for John Kerry in the 2004 Presidential election, and to outlive the pope. Characteristically, he accomplished both goals.

Henry had suffered a severe heart attack in early February. Although he subsequently rallied, his health had continued to decline in recent months.

Mr. King is survived by his wife Patricia, and their sons, Andrew and Timothy; together with fourteen children from his first marriage to the late Ottilie R. Sandrock, thirty-eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. One son, John, predeceased him in 2002. Henry's son Matt, president of M.S. King, Inc, is well known to many in the beer industry.

There will be a wake today (April 29) at the O'Brien Funeral Home, Wall Township, NJ 2:00-4:00 pm; 7 to 9pm, and a funeral at 9:30 am Saturday at St Catherine's Church Spring Lake, NJ.

Note: Contributions can be made in Henry's name to the House of Friendship Foundation, Inc., which supports Henry and Patricia's work in Honduras. 513 Old Mill Road, Spring Lake, NJ, 07762.
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Title Annotation:Brewers' Association of America
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Article Type:Obituary
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 2, 2005
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