Nonprofit executive Dennis Leon Terry was born on October 26, 1944 in Smithfield, North Carolina to Daisy Smith Williams and Kelly Terry, Jr. He grew up in the segregated South and experienced racial segregation and the overwhelming presence of the Ku Klux Klan. He attended North Carolina’s Lucille Hunter Elementary School and Springfield, Massachusetts' Buckingham Junior High School and Springfield Technical High School.
In 1964, Terry attended Howard University, where he majored in economics, was a member of the Howard University track team and was involved in Howard’s work study program. In addition to being active on campus, Terry also volunteered within the community. In 1968, Terry graduated from Howard University with his B.A. degree in economics.
After graduation Terry became the operations manager for the Long Island Lighting Company. In 1971, motivated by the concept of “diverse cultural groups coming together to produce the common good,” Terry and others founded the Mid Bronx Senior Citizens Council (MBSCC). The MBSCC was established as an advocacy group for the elderly focusing on the deteriorating areas of New York City’s South Bronx community.
In 1972, Terry became the chairman of the New York Urban League’s Bronx Borough Board and attended the National Black Political Convention held in Gary, Indiana. From 1976 until 1996, Terry was a board member of the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (SoBRO), a company that sought to reverse the flight of jobs and business from the South Bronx. Terry was also a board member of the Bronx Lebanon Hospital from 1981 to 1982.
Terry is retired and currently resides in the Bronx, New York.
Dennis Leon Terry was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 25, 2007.