Q&A: UT alumnus John Henderson discusses Guinness Record for longest marriage

Avery Wohleb

Before there was Jendy’s, Speedway Mall and Kins Coffee at UT, there was John and Charlotte Henderson. 

UT alumni John and Charlotte tied the knot over 80 years ago and are currently recognized by the Guinness World Records as the oldest living married couple in the world.

The Daily Texan sat down with John as he looked back on his time as a student and as the oldest living Longhorn football player.

The Daily Texan: What are your main memories of your life as a student at UT?

John Henderson: I have some fond memories (from) when I was at UT. I came here as a freshman in 1932. I lived in (student housing) across the street from Gregory Gym, and the people living next door had chickens and a cow in the backyard. Today, you couldn’t imagine a chicken and a cow near Gregory Gym. 1933 was the first year that I was eligible (to play football). Clyde Littlefield was the head football coach at that time. In 1934 in zoology class, we were seated alphabetically in a lecture room. It turned out Charlotte sat right in front of me. I could look over her shoulder. She was a cute little chick. We got acquainted in that class, and then we finally had a date.

DT: What was life for you and Charlotte like after graduation?

JH: At graduation we talked about maybe getting married, but those were the (Great) Depression days, and we didn’t have any money. Charlotte taught school, and I coached and taught in Port Arthur, Texas, for three years. In the meantime, I talked Charlotte into getting married. She was shy and didn’t want a big wedding. We got married on Dec. 22 in 1939 around noontime, and we had two witnesses. We spent our honeymoon in San Antonio. After that, we moved into a garage apartment in Baytown. That was when (World War II) broke out, and they weren’t building houses then, so we spent the war years stuck in a garage apartment.

DT: How did you end back up in Austin?

JH: We said all these years when I retired, we would move back to Austin. We didn’t know when that would be. In the meantime, I did retire, but we were having such a good time with our friends doing a lot of traveling, mostly cruise ships. Europe, Asia, South America — we loved making new friends. And as our traveling mates died off, we’re the last couple to be living. They’re all gone. We traveled together just by ourselves for several years before we moved to Longhorn Village. We had to stop traveling when we moved here because once you reach past that century mark, things change.

DT: What advice would you give students on living a long and happy life?

JH: Take life in moderation. Don’t overdo it. Strive to make tomorrow a better day than today. You have to give and take in marriage ­— one person can’t dominate. You have to be equal, and share and work together. Never go to bed at night with a chip on your shoulder. Smooth things out today and don’t put it off until tomorrow because it may expand and get worse. I think the best thing you can do is be good mates and work together because you can’t do it alone.

DT: What is your favorite thing about Charlotte?

JH: We just liked to do the same things together, and we liked being together. That just expanded into real love of one another and the life that we would live. We never wanted to change.