Early morning wreck New Year’s Day claims life of Lawrence 20-year-old who grew up in Tonganoxie

January 5, 2022

James Henderson Jr., or JJ as he was known to family and friends, was always happy-go-lucky. His grandmother, Vicki McMullin of Tonganoxie, said she can’t even remember him ever having a temper tantrum as a child and that if he did, “they were few and far between.”

“That guy since he was tiny, he was just a happy happy kid,” McMullin said. “You could tease him and could goof around with him and he was always happy.

“He made everyone around him happy. He was just one of the guys who brought light into everybody’s world.”

Henderson, who grew up in Tonganoxie and attended school here into high school, was killed in two-vehicle accident early Saturday in Lawrence.

Henderson was 20.

Lt. David Ernst of the Lawrence Police Department said on Monday that James Henderson Jr., of Lawrence, died from the injuries he suffered in the crash. The incident occurred around 12:15 a.m. at the 2500 block of West Sixth Street, near the intersection with Crestline Drive.

Ernst previously said preliminary information about the incident suggested the crash occurred when a westbound vehicle crossed the center line and collided with an eastbound vehicle, which was carrying Henderson and two other people. Ernst said police were investigating whether impaired driving was a contributing factor.

The driver of the westbound vehicle was transported to an area hospital by ambulance with suspected minor injuries, the Journal-World previously reported. Henderson and the other people in the eastbound vehicle were suspected to have suffered serious injuries.

Emergency radio traffic at the time of the incident indicated that a 37-year-old man was transported to LMH Health for treatment of less serious injuries. Medics also transported a 52-year old woman to Overland Park Regional Medical Center with ankle and leg injuries, according to emergency radio traffic. They worked for about 20 minutes to extricate her from the vehicle. Radio traffic indicated that an ambulance was also dispatched to Stormont-Vail Hospital in Topeka.

Ernst said Monday that the incident was still under investigation.

McMullin said her grandson was into video games and liked Minecraft among others.

“He didn’t have the formal training, but if you had a problem with your computer or phone, he could just figure it out,” she explained. “If he had had the opportunity to have the formal training, he would have been a wiz at computers. He absolutely loved it.”

Henderson was always up for trying new things, such as fishing, and was adored by many, according to his grandmother.

That especially was true with McMullin’s special needs granddaughter.

“He was amazing with her,” McMullin said. “He would sit with her and talk and interact.

“She just adored him. Everybody did.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up in JJ’s memory to help the family with funeral costs and other expenses. He was the son of Jim and Carrie Henderson.

The page had raised about $7,100 from 139 donors as of early Tuesday afternoon. The page can be found at

A celebration of life for JJ will be 2-5 p.m. Saturday at Village Venue, 528 E. Fourth St. All are welcome to share tributes. In addition, and area for written memories and tributes also will be available.

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