KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Paul Harry Henson, who rose from a warehouseman to become a leader in telecommunications and spearhead the growth of Sprint Corp., has died in California. He was 71.

Henson died Saturday at a hospital in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

He served as chairman of Sprint, formerly United Telecom, for 25 years, stepping down in 1990 to become chairman of Kansas City Southern Industries.

He started his career as a warehouseman for Lincoln Telephone and Telegraph Co. before rising to chief engineer. In 1959, he joined the company that would become Sprint as vice president.

While at Sprint, Henson directed the company's efforts to build a nationwide fiber-optic network at enormous expense. Sprint now is the third-largest long-distance firm in the country.

``He was the outstanding leader in the communications industry in his time,'' said Thomas Nurnberger, a former AT&T executive who became a director of Sprint. ``The idea of a nationwide fiber-optic network was his, and he went ahead with it at a time when no one else was doing it.''

He is survived by his wife, Betty, and two daughters.