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Emmit J. McHenry

Emmit J. McHenry is founder, chairman, and CEO of Enterprise Magazine’s 10th ranked African American-owned business, NetCom Solutions International, Inc. He was born in Forrest City, Arkansas, on July 12, 1943, the grandson of a minister. Growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, McHenry attended Stewart Elementary School, Carver Middle School and Booker T. Washington High School. After graduating in 1962, he went on to receive his B.S. in communications from the University of Denver in 1966. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, where he attained the rank of lieutenant. McHenry would go on to Northwestern University, where in 1979 he earned his M.S. degree in communications. Here, he would also complete the qualifying examinations for a doctorate.

McHenry held various management positions with IBM, Connecticut General, Union Mutual and AllState Insurance Company. He served on several insurance industry committees and was a founding member of the American Productivity Management Association. He then founded Network Solutions, Inc. the internet domain services provider, and in 1995, he founded NetCom Solutions International, a telecommunications, engineering, consulting, and technical services company. The company has received awards for excellent service from IBM, NASA and Lucent Technologies with revenues of $260 million and over 200 employees in Chantilly, Virginia and Oklahoma City.

Today, McHenry serves as chairman of VisuTel, a broadband telecommunications company. McHenry is on the executive committee of the Council on Competitiveness, the board of directors for NetCom Solutions International, Ltd. (UK), and chairs the governance committee for the Phelps Stokes Fund. He is on the advisory board of DECIS Technology and is former chairman of the board of LearnCity, Inc. McHenry has also served on the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, the State of Virginia Economic Development Authority and the board of directors for James Martin Government Intelligence. He has also chaired the board of directors of NeCom Solutions South Africa.

McHenry’s business engagements have taken him to Africa, Europe and Asia.

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Interview Date


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Booker T. Washington High School

Stewart Elementary School

George Washington Carver Middle School

First Name


Birth City, State, Country

Forrest City



Favorite Season




Favorite Vacation Destination


Favorite Quote

Life Is A Becoming Process. Clarity Is Power.

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District of Columbia

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Speakers Bureau Region City




Favorite Food

Curried Vegetables

Short Description

Telecommunications chief executive and telecommunications entrepreneur Emmit J. McHenry (1943 - ) is the founder, chairman and CEO of NetCom Solutions International, Inc., a telecommunications, engineering, consulting and technical services company.



Connecticut General

Union Mutual

Allstate Insurance Company

Network Solutions, Inc.

Netcom Solutions International

Visutel, Inc.

Favorite Color


Timing Pairs

<a href="">Tape: 1 Slating of Emmit J. McHenry's interview</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Emmit J. McHenry lists his favorites</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Emmit J. McHenry describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Emmit J. McHenry talks about his father's family background</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Emmit J. McHenry talks about healers and readers in his family</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Emmit J. McHenry talks about his paternal grandmother, his mother, and care from the community</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Emmit J. McHenry describes his father and how his parents met</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Emmit J. McHenry talks about growing up between Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma and his early desire to go to college</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Emmit J. McHenry recalls his childhood interests and activities</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Emmit J. McHenry recalls grade school and his favorite teachers</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Emmit J. McHenry recalls going to Carver Middle School in Tulsa, Oklahoma</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Emmit J. McHenry describes his community in Tulsa, Oklahoma</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Emmit J. McHenry talks about the history of Deep Greenwood, Oklahoma</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Emmit J. McHenry talks about the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Emmit J. McHenry describes his involvement with youth politics in Oklahoma</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Emmit J. McHenry talks about playing music and football as well as his decision to attend the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Emmit J. McHenry describes his experience at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Emmit J. McHenry talks about attending the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado and the black student population there</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Emmit J. McHenry describes his undergraduate experience at the University of Denver in Colorado, pt. 1</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Emmit J. McHenry talks about HistoryMaker Cleo Parker Robinson</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Emmit J. McHenry describes his undergraduate experience at the University of Denver in Colorado, pt. 2</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Emmit J. McHenry talks about working for IBM in Denver, Colorado after graduating from the University of Denver</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Emmit J. McHenry talks about being drafted into the Vietnam War and joining the U.S. Marine Corps</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Emmit J. McHenry talks about going to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois for graduate school</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Emmit J. McHenry talks about moving to Maine to work for Union Mutual</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Emmit J. McHenry recalls starting Network Solutions as a four-person company</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Emmit J. McHenry describes his work with Allstate Insurance Company</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Emmit J. McHenry remembers being promoted to regional vice president for the Northwest at Allstate Insurance Company</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Emmit J. McHenry talks about strategizing to give African Americans opportunities at Allstate Insurance Company</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Emmit J. McHenry talks about a meeting at Allstate Insurance Company with other black executives to establish a support system for black executives</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Emmit J. McHenry talks about his decision to leave Allstate Insurance Company to focus on his business, Network Solutions</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Emmit J. McHenry describes Network Solutions' role as sole registrar for internet domain names in the early 1990s</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Emmit J. McHenry reflects on selling Network Solutions</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Emmit J. McHenry talks about his current business operations, NetCom Solutions International and VisuTel</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Emmit J. McHenry describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Emmit J. McHenry reflects upon having grown up in poverty</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Emmit J. McHenry considers his legacy, pt. 1</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Emmit J. McHenry considers his legacy, pt. 2</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Emmit J. McHenry considers what he might have done differently</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Emmit J. McHenry describes how he would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Emmit J. McHenry narrates his photographs</a>







Emmit J. McHenry talks about moving to Maine to work for Union Mutual
Emmit J. McHenry talks about strategizing to give African Americans opportunities at Allstate Insurance Company
Okay, all right. So well, how long you do that?$$Well, I do that for a couple of years, in the process of doing that, I'm recruited away. One of the guys who knew the work I done at Connecticut General [Life Insurance Company, later merged with Insurance Company of North America to form Cigna] in terms of some change agent stuff, asked me to come up to Maine, because for the first--there's a company there, Union Mutual [later UNUM Life Insurance Company of America], for the first time in a 121 years, had lost money, and they were desperate to do something different. So I said, guy's name is Bill, I said, "Bill, do they know that I am a black guy" that, he said, "it doesn't matter man, we got some challenges here and-- "How many black folk in Maine?" "Well, if you're here that will be you, there will be a few other folk," you know, what the heck, I'm married by now. So I go to Maine and going on the weekend, the president and the chief executive officer meet with me on a Saturday morning. They tell me their story, I tell them my story and they make me an offer. Now what I didn't tell you is that while I'm in graduate school [at Northwestern University School of Communication, Evanston, Illinois], I had my own consulting practice, I mean Roy Woods had turned some of his clients to me, and I developed my own clients, I'm making fifty thousand dollars a year as a graduate student. To go to Maine, they're gonna pay me like forty-two thousand dollars a year, I'm taking a substantial cut, but the challenge was interesting. And so I move to Maine and I lived there for seven years, the longest I'd lived any place and it was a wonderful experience. We took and reorganized the company together with the CEO, who's a very interesting guy. I was the only black executive in the company, and for my first couple years, I was the only black person in corporate headquarters, always intriguing. Though was able to get involved the community, you know. House became kind of a meeting place for parts of the black community in Portland [Maine]; it was a good experience, yeah. It's enriching, and Maine, like Colorado, was a unique kind of environment, I mean the winters were long but the summers were perfect and I enjoyed it. I spent a lot of time in New York, but I always traveled so I traveled a lot, based on the work, because Union Mutual had a national presence and part of my job was to be out and about and looking at what was happening in the rest of the country.$$Okay. Anything happened in Maine that you want to tell us about, a note?$$What a note in Maine.$$A lot of black people have not been to Maine (laughing) just a general observation.$$Yeah. I think well it's in the far Northeast, you know, and you got through Massachusetts and New Hampshire to get there, and so that's reason. It was interesting, this is before, of course President [George H.W.] Bush put it on the map for Kennebunk [Maine], but we used to all--me and the family and I would go to Kennebunk [Maine] and Kennebunkport [Maine] and Algonquin [sic, Ogunquit, Maine] in the summer and hang out, and thoroughly enjoy what Maine had to offer. I think one of the interesting things there was being the only black person in the company, I think, one of the interesting--I had a chance to impact opportunities for women in the company that were already there. And I think we did some good work there, promoting and seeing that women got promoted. And that later opened up opportunities in the field for black folk as well, I think. There were black folk in the company, but they were in cities like Los Angeles [California], Chicago [Illinois], but not in Maine itself.$$Okay.$$I thought that was good experience, it was wonderful to be able to host the black community in Maine. 'Cause a lot of folks were multi-generational in Maine, you know, who been there forever. Or people who come up and the [U.S.] Military in the [U.S.] Air Force, there's an Air Force base in Maine [Loring Air Force Base], and decide they're going to stay. Not a lot of folks, but a few folks like that, so it's really interesting to get to be a part of that and participate and supporting a black theater group that was opened to the broader community, that sort of thing, it was an enriching experience.$$Okay, alright. So your home becomes kind of a focal point for the community.$$It becomes a place where people can come and gather, yeah.$Yeah, one of the pieces that--we're talking about Allstate [Insurance Company], and it's probably worth nothing, you know, often people in corporate America, particularly minority group folk, are nervous about promoting each other or working at developing each other or taking risks on each other. We did something very unusual, because of my role, in fact that I was involved in coach quotes, helping bring about some changes. I knew a lot about what was going on and during the period I developed, what I called the twenty minute presentation. There's nothing I couldn't present in twenty minutes, and if--and there's no meeting that people expect to end in twenty minutes. So if I make a presentation to you in twenty minutes, I'm going to tell you the purpose and the desired outcome and the process for getting the outcome, basically. If I do that in twenty minutes, following that then, there's a lot of other stuff for us to talk about. And people tend to open up and talk about what's on their minds at that point. So I was lucky to be in a position where I understood and knew the corporate strategy on the corporate issues. Understanding that, I begin to observe that black folk who manage other black folk were rarely taking risks of promoting black folk beneath them. I think in part the concern was that ooh favoritism, so I--(simultaneous)$$So they went out to out of the way to be unblack actually?$$Well not always unblack but I don't want to be that harsh, but cautious, cautious is the term I'd use. Now remember that I got this other business [Network Solutions] that's going, that I'm spending all my weekends and stuff trying to do, so I'm pretty secure guy. I don't know what would have happened if I'd been in a different position. Though I think it would be my nature to do what I did anyway, I decided that it was time for some of the black folk who had positions of power to use those. And I arranged to have a group--I got with my friend Chuck Martin, and told Chuck what I was thinking and he agreed. And we arranged a group of black folk, managers from all over the country, to come and meet one Saturday morning in Chicago [Illinois] at the United Airlines Terminal in the executive area [at Chicago O'Hare International Airport, Chicago, Illinois]. And what we did was talked about what we could do, what our aspirations were and how we could work together and support each other and those below us in achieving. And indeed almost to a person, I can think of only one person in that group whose aspirations weren't achieved. And I can think of no one that we had identified that didn't get promoted in the next two years to a senior position. We did it very quietly; in fact this is the first, second public discussion ever of it. The first public discussion occurred at a retirement, because all the senior white executives had been involved in the process who were around at the time had already retired, and we kind of talked openly at one black executive's retirement about what we had done and why. The fascinating thing about this, after I left Allstate, I went back maybe five years later and--three or five years later. I was walking the hall and I'd run into these young black folk who didn't even acknowledge each other, didn't even speak and I felt, they felt that they've gotten here just on their own, not realizing that a lot of work had been down both tactically and strategically to create a place that would trap people like them, that would be open to that. So that's one of the things I feel best about in my corporate careers what we did at Allstate. And if you look at the black executives at Allstate today, they really significant, and have real power and they use that. Not probably even having any idea of what went before or the work that was done to make sure that could happen, yeah, interesting story.