"And he said when you do, I want to pin your captain's bars on you," James said.
In 1980, he took the lieutenant's test along with five white officers. There were six vacancies and he was told he had failed the test - although he never saw proof of that. James filed a lawsuit and 10 years later finally was awarded his rank and back pay.
His last promotion, to captain in 1992, finally came with no problems. He called his now-retired friend, Ed Clark, and asked him to be there.
"We both stood up there, crying," James recalled. "I stood on those guys' shoulders to get where I did.
"He was the only black there," James added. "One of the things that bothered me about being the first black was that none of the others came to my ceremony."
Henderson returned from the service and took several jobs before considering police work. He worked for the county assessor's office and as a ticket agent for the airlines, even taking a job in Washington, D.C., before he decided to come home again.
He was working for the city bus service - the predecessor to KRT - when he decided the police department might suit his lifestyle better. Bus drivers were on call when they weren't working their routes, and in the days before cell phones or even beepers, that meant he was chained to his house when he was off duty.
As a police officer Henderson was assigned to the housing projects and found he liked it.
Henderson and James are lifelong learners - both earned bachelor's degrees in criminal justice and have accumulated most of the hours necessary for master's degrees.
James traveled the country taking any workshop or class he could, and Henderson took many hours of counseling classes, realizing they were beneficial when he was negotiating with troubled youth and families.
Despite the prejudices both saw in the department, James and Henderson said they believe they also were respected for their work.
Kent Carper, then the city's public safety director, recommended that James be named chief of detectives in 1986. Again, he was the first black in the post.
"We solved a lot of crimes," James said. "I enjoyed it - putting the puzzles together."
As chief of detectives, James also set up training programs for his officers, rotating them out of the slow Sunday shift and into classes whenever he could.
Henderson found his niche in the housing project beat and in the juvenile bureau, where he learned that knowing people helped him the most.
"I learned my troublemakers. I knew them by name," he said.
The only time he ever pulled his gun was to hand it to his partner during a dicey situation where he feared it was going to be yanked and turned on him.
"I helped way more than I put in jail," he said. He had a tough talk ready for troubled juveniles and more than once he turned a kid over his knee and gave him an old-fashioned spanking.
Sure, there was danger. But Henderson said every time he faced it, something happened to protect him.
"I really believe every time I ran into a bad situation, the Lord was there," he said.
Henderson recently was there to pin sergeant's bars on his son, George III.
"That's why I don't listen to the police radio," he said.
James' sons also followed in his footsteps. Richard James Jr. works for the Nevada Highway Patrol, and his youngest son, Casey, is a corrections officer for the state prison at Mount Olive.
In retirement, Henderson has been busy writing down memories of his long career, which continued in retirement at Yeager Airport, where he served in the airport police for seven years. He currently serves on the police civil service commission and is active in his church, Levi First Missionary Baptist.
James has written one book about growing up in the hollow and is hard at work on another. He works part time as a private detective for area black lawyers. He is active in Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church, where he has been a member for 70 years.
"My career was very enjoyable to me," he said.
Contact writer Monica Orosz at mon...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4830.