Southeast Queens honors legacy of entrepreneur Henry Clayton with street co-naming

Councilwoman Adrienne Adams hosts a street co-naming ceremony with the family and friends of Henry Clayton at Rochdale Village. (Photo courtesy of Adams’ office)

Southeast Queens honored a trailblazing entrepreneur as the corner of 137th Avenue and 169th Street was co-named in honor of Henry Clayton on Thursday, June 17.

During the ceremony, he was remembered as a hard-working role model and a community-minded small business owner who co-founded Henden Travel — the first Black-owned travel agency in the Rochdale Village Center.

“Henry Clayton led an extraordinary life of entrepreneurship, service and joy. From founding the first Black-owned travel agency in the community to serving as a role model for young people, his contributions to southeast Queens will never be forgotten,” Councilwoman Adrienne Adams said. “I was proud to celebrate his life and impact with Kevin Livingston, Tanisha Phillips and the entire Clayton family, as well as our local elected officials. Now, just steps away from his historic business, members of our community can look up to see the new street sign that pays homage to the legacy of Henry Clayton.”

The corner was co-named “Henry Clayton Street,” with the sign unveiled on what would have been his 78th birthday. Clayton died in January 2019.

“We appreciate Council member Adams and her staff for honoring my dad’s memory for generations to come,” said Kevin Livingston, founder of 100 Suits for 100 Men.

(Photo courtesy of Adams’ office)

Born in Philadelphia on June 17, 1943, Clayton spent his early years in Harlem before he was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he served for two years. After his military service, Clayton worked as a head teller and manager at Carver Bank. He also worked as a route salesman for Frito Lay Company for 20 years, servicing parts of Jamaica.

Following his entrepreneurial dreams, Clayton later entered a joint venture to start his own pest control business, C&H Exterminators. In March 1988, Clayton co-founded Henden Travel on Foch Boulevard with three employees. Three years later, Clayton and his travel agency secured a storefront at Rochdale Village, access the street from Citi Bank. Henden Travel provided services including a notary public, airline ticketing, hotel booking, travel insurance and packaged tours.

“Henry Clayton, Jr. was a fine citizen of Queens. His philanthropy and entrepreneurship have left a lasting legacy throughout southeast Queens and he deserves to have the permanent honor of this street renaming,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said. “Everyone in this community will have the opportunity to celebrate Mr. Clayton’s example.”

In 2003, Clayton and his wife Denise, decided to leave the cold weather behind and start a new chapter in Melbourne, Florida, where they enjoyed their time with longtime friends and neighbors. Clayton also enjoyed Bible study every other Saturday and outings at his local Walmart.

“I was grateful to spend time with Kevin Livingston and his family as we celebrated the life and legacy of his father, Henry Clayton,” state Senator Leroy Comrie said. “Thanks to Council member Adams for shepherding this co-naming through the City Council and bringing the community together to celebrate a man who lived a life worthy of celebration and honor.”

“It is a pleasure to recognize the many contributions to the community of Henry Clayton,” Assemblyman Clyde Vanel said. “For generations, the community will see his name and know of his legacy.”