As the creator of The Muppets and Fraggle Rock, as well as the director of The Dark Crystal (1982) and Labyrinth (1990), James Maury Henson (September 24, 1936 – May 16, 1990), was a well-known American puppet maker (1986). He was born in Greenville, Mississippi, and has lived in Leland, Mississippi, and University Park, Maryland, all of which are within a two-hour drive of each other.
The Beginnings of One’s Life:
His parents were Paul Ransom Henson, an agronomist for the US Department of Agriculture, and Betty Marcella (née Brown) Henson. Henson was born in Greenville, Mississippi, on September 24, 1936, the younger of two children. Paul Ransom Henson, Jr., Henson’s elder brother, died in an automobile accident on April 15, 1956.
After spending his early years in Leland, Mississippi, where he was raised by Christian Scientists, he and his family relocated to University Park, Maryland, near Washington, DC, in the late 1940s. Having been significantly affected by radio ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and the early television puppets of Burr Tillstrom on Kukla, Fran and Ollie and Bil and Cora Baird, he considered the advent of the family’s first television “the biggest event of his boyhood.”
Even though he taught Sunday school while still a Christian Scientist, he wrote to a Christian Science church in 1975 to let them know that he no longer considered himself a practising member.
After graduating from Northwestern High School and joining WTOP-TV (now WUSA-TV) in 1954, Henson created puppets for a children’s show called The Junior Morning Show on Saturday mornings while still just 18 years old.
The weekend before his death on Wednesday, Henson had complained to a physician cousin about cold symptoms. He didn’t see a doctor until Tuesday morning when he started having problems breathing when he checked into a New York hospital.
Doctors reported that by that moment, the bacterial infection from his lungs had spread to other parts of his body and antibiotics were no longer able to control the sickness.
Kermit’s final performance on The Arsenio Hall Show was on May 4, 1990, when Jim Henson made his final appearance with Kermit. It was revealed that he had a sore throat and was exhausted. The next Monday, May 13, he flew back to New York and immediately cancelled his work schedule due to poor health. Henson collapsed at 2 a.m. on May 15 and coughed up blood.
He confided in Jane that he was on the verge of death. In her telling, she stated he stayed at home because he didn’t want to bother anyone. He had a change of heart and was rushed to New York Hospital at 4 a.m. to be treated. When he was in, he had trouble breathing and was put on a ventilator right away.
Infection with Streptococcus pyogenes, which causes strep throat, scarlet fever, and rheumatic fever, killed him on May 16. Over the course of several days, Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria invaded Henson, producing abscesses in his lungs. He died as a result of the bacteria’s release of toxin-causing toxins that killed his kidneys, liver, and heart.
He had received massive dosages of antibiotics, but he died because the medications only killed the germs and did nothing to remove the toxins from his system. You need antibiotics before your body’s organs are ravaged by toxic waste products produced by the bacteria. Strep throat is so common that most people only get a painful throat when they are infected. Several studies have indicated that your genes play a role in this.
Infections with strep bacteria can cause toxic shock syndrome in those who have specific types of HLA (human leukocyte antigen) genes, whereas those who have another combination of HLA genes are protected from getting toxic shock syndrome. To help your immune system distinguish between invaders and your own cells, your HLA genes signal your immune system which cells to target.
Nobody predicted Jim Henson’s demise. Henson, who died in 1990 at the age of 53, was at the height of his creative powers despite his advanced years. To say that Henson was a master of his craft would be an understatement. The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, and Fraggle Rock, as well as Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, were all created by this man. There didn’t appear to be any end to Henson’s imagination or ability to innovate.
In the eyes of those who knew him best, Henson was much more than just a great actor. According to the Funeral Service Times, Frank Oz, an old friend and collaborator of Henson’s, offered a eulogy during Henson’s London funeral and said: “Jim is regarded by many as a unique and gifted artist. I’ve come to recognise that Jim is first and foremost an admirer in my mind. He was so appreciative… In his heart, he was grateful for the people in his life who supported him, including his family, friends, and coworkers. And he was impressed by the puppet’s performances and design. He had a fondness for the artefacts he could acquire. A Persian rug’s intricate design caught his eye. Beauty was all that mattered to him.”
To this day, Henson’s films and television shows continue to enthral children and adults alike.
Having married Jane Nebel in 1959, Henson and Nebel had five children together: Lisa, Cheryl, Brian, and John, who died in 2014. (b. 1970). The couple divorced in 1986, but Henson and his ex-wife maintained a close relationship for the remainder of his life. When it came to spending time with his wife and children, Jane claimed that Jim was overcommitted in his professional life.
They all started working with the Muppets at an early age since it was “one of the best ways to be with him,” Cheryl tells me. As a supporter of the civil rights struggle, Henson was a household name.