Leonard Henderson was born on Nutbush Creek in 1772 in what was then Granville County. He studied law with his uncle, Judge John Williams, and, in 1795, married his cousin Frances Farrar. They settled near Williamsborough on land that formerly belonged to Judge Williams.
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After several years as clerk of district court in Hillsborough, Henderson began to practice law in 1800. In 1808 he was elected a judge of superior court, a position he held until his resignation in 1816. Subsequently, the state’s judicial system was revised and a Supreme Court of three members was created. Henderson became Chief Justice in 1829.
Aside from his service on the bench, Henderson was also an educator. For thirty years he conducted a law school in connection with his Williamsborough law office. Among his students were many of the most eminent of North Carolina’s next generation of lawyers, including Richmond Pearson and William Horn Battle. Henderson was also a trustee of the University of North Carolina from 1817 to 1828.
Henderson was buried in the family cemetery at the Williamsborough seat of John Williams known at “Montpelier.” Henderson County, created in 1838, and the town of Henderson, incorporated in 1841, were named for Leonard Henderson.
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, III, 103—sketch by Lucy B. Royster
Dictionary of American Biography, VIII, 529
Fannie Memory Farmer, “Legal Education in North Carolina,” North Carolina Historical Review (July 1951): 271-297
W. H. Battle, “Memoir of Leonard Henderson,” North Carolina University Magazine (November 1859)
Samuel Thomas Peace, "Zeb’s Black Baby": Vance County, North Carolina: A Short History (1955)