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Dennis Terry

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.

Accession Number

A2007.303

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/25/2007

Last Name

Terry

Maker Category
Schools

Buckingham Junior High School

Hunter GT/AIG Magnet Elementary School

Elias Brookings School

Central Junior High School

Springfield Technical High School

Howard University

First Name

Dennis

Birth City, State, Country

Smithfield

HM ID

TER05

Favorite Season

Spring

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date

10/26/1944

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Pork Chops

Short Description

Nonprofit executive and civic leader Dennis Terry (1944 - ) co-founded the Mid Bronx Senior Citizens Council, and was a board member of the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporations, an organization that sought to reverse the flight of jobs and business from the South Bronx.

Employment

Long Island Lighting Company

Mid Bronx Senior Citizen Council, Inc.

Potomac Electric Power Company

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564415">Tape: 1 Slating of Dennis Terry's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564416">Tape: 1 Dennis Terry lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564417">Tape: 1 Dennis Terry describes his mother's family background, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564418">Tape: 1 Dennis Terry describes his mother's family background, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564419">Tape: 1 Dennis Terry describes his mother's personality</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564420">Tape: 1 Dennis Terry describes his father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564421">Tape: 1 Dennis Terry talks about his paternal grandmother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564422">Tape: 1 Dennis Terry describes his father's personality</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564423">Tape: 1 Dennis Terry recalls the entertainment and political centers in Raleigh, North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564424">Tape: 1 Dennis Terry describes the community of Washington Terrace in Raleigh, North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564425">Tape: 2 Dennis Terry remembers his childhood in Raleigh, North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564426">Tape: 2 Dennis Terry describes the residents of Washington Terrace in Raleigh, North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564427">Tape: 2 Dennis Terry remembers Lucille Hunter Elementary School in Raleigh, North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564428">Tape: 2 Dennis Terry talks about his educational experiences in the South and the North</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564429">Tape: 2 Dennis Terry describes his awareness of racial discrimination in North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564430">Tape: 2 Dennis Terry recalls a teacher at Elias Brookings Elementary School in Springfield, Massachusetts</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564431">Tape: 2 Dennis Terry describes the demographics of the Old Hill neighborhood in Springfield, Massachusetts</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564432">Tape: 2 Dennis Terry remembers Classical Junior High School in Springfield, Massachusetts</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564433">Tape: 3 Dennis Terry describes his secondary education in Springfield, Massachusetts</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564434">Tape: 3 Dennis Terry describes his experiences at Technical High School in Springfield, Massachusetts</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564435">Tape: 3 Dennis Terry talks about his experiences at summer camp</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564436">Tape: 3 Dennis Terry remembers his doo-wop group</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564437">Tape: 3 Dennis Terry describes his decision to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564438">Tape: 3 Dennis Terry recalls his first year at Howard University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564439">Tape: 3 Dennis Terry remembers Ewart Brown and Jerry Guess</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564440">Tape: 3 Dennis Terry remembers the riots of 1968 in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564441">Tape: 4 Dennis Terry describes his position at the Potomac Electric Power Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564442">Tape: 4 Dennis Terry recalls his first role at the Long Island Lighting Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564443">Tape: 4 Dennis Terry describes how he came to work for the Long Island Lighting Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564444">Tape: 4 Dennis Terry describes his experiences at the Long Island Lighting Company, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564445">Tape: 4 Dennis Terry describes his experiences at the Long Island Lighting Company, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564446">Tape: 4 Dennis Terry talks about his career at the Long Island Lighting Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564447">Tape: 4 Dennis Terry describes his community involvement in the Bronx, New York</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564448">Tape: 5 Dennis Terry describes his volunteer work in the Bronx and Brooklyn boroughs of New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564449">Tape: 5 Dennis Terry talks about the demographics of the Bronx, New York</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564450">Tape: 5 Dennis Terry recalls the New York City teacher's strike of 1968</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564451">Tape: 5 Dennis Terry remembers the formation of the Mid Bronx Senior Citizens Council, Inc.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564452">Tape: 5 Dennis Terry describes the Mid Bronx Senior Citizens Council, Inc.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564453">Tape: 5 Dennis Terry talks about the housing facilities created by the Mid Bronx Senior Citizens Council, Inc.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564454">Tape: 5 Dennis Terry talks about Andrew Freedman and the Andrew Freeman Home in Bronx, New York</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564455">Tape: 5 Dennis Terry talks about his family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564456">Tape: 5 Dennis Terry describes the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564457">Tape: 6 Dennis Terry recalls the National Black Political Convention of 1976</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564458">Tape: 6 Dennis Terry reflects upon his honors and awards</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564459">Tape: 6 Dennis Terry talks about his plans for the future</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/564460">Tape: 6 Dennis Terry narrates his photographs</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

5$1

DATitle
Dennis Terry describes his experiences at the Long Island Lighting Company, pt. 2
Dennis Terry describes his volunteer work in the Bronx and Brooklyn boroughs of New York City
Transcript
So I gained perspectives of--about the company [Long Island Lighting Company] and about the officers that ran the company that however, didn't ev- that never translated into a big job for me (laughter), because I guess I also had a lot of questions and even some answers to some of the questions. But I met good people, learned a lot about the industry, and got an awful lot--an opportunity to do a lot of interesting and good things. I eventually was offered a job back in the sales department, which I took and it started that I was an analyst and that eventually as the analyst of the jobs of assisting either doing budgetary work, working with preparing indices for the salesmen to use when they went on their routes selling our products of gas and electric. They would have to make estimates of customer usage for heating, for their appliances and things of that sort. So I got a chance to do a lot of work in that area pulling together these estimates of appliance usage and comparability, I guess, between oil, heat--electric heat and gas heat for comparison for selling purposes. If you're going to sell you want to demonstrate that your product is either more efficient or cheaper, which ever works. So they had a lot of challenge in doing that. I was also responsible for doing a lot of work on demographic analysis in putting together sales territories for our salesmen so that meant we had to use the census information to age, to get some idea of the age of the home and make determinations about the age of the heating equipment and then to determine what was potential within a given area so that we did give them a territory that would have to convince them that look you can make a living here. They never enjoyed any of that stuff, we call that the egghead work (laughter). Those guys, they in many occasions I think their gut instincts were right about what management was attempting to do to them. But I was the young management trainee that had to go find the empirical evidence to support and implement some of these initiatives and beliefs that our management felt in those areas. I was young so I--it was something that I was learning and I loved it. I eventually got to be in charge of the budgeting for the sales department and the preparation of their budgets and also to oversee the technical supports to our salesforce and we had three or four sales offices at one time, so they would come in and bring the work back to our sales assistants and they would prepare the comparative heating analysis and these guys would then take back to the customer and things of this sort. So we got to do that. I got to also computerize a lot of that stuff, and use portable computers at a time when they were just starting. But I never go to be a department manager or division manager for a host of reasons but I was able to learn a lot about my industry and to--I had a lot of leeway, I had a budget, I prepared the budgets for the department and I had a lot of, since I processed all of the budgets, my signatory authority was probably comparable to that of departments and some assistant VPs. So it was, I guess it was a taxonomy or contradiction that I would have such financial prerogatives and not have an organizational status.$$Will you tell us any of the reasons that you think you did not become a department manager?$$Oh, sure.$$Or were not named as such at any rate?$$Well, I think you don't have in any corporate environment like that, in any corporate environment I believe, I think you need a mentor, you need to be connected to some political system. Ability alone will not do it. I remember one department manager telling me that if he needed brains he could always buy those and I said to him, "That's why I didn't work for you" (laughter). But that's how they sort of treated intellectual ability, so if you were thinking you were going to think your way in a job they didn't necessarily think that way. Also it was--they told me that I didn't live on the island [Long Island, New York], but I didn't think that was the case.$So you got involved in the evenings--$$Yes, and that led me to paint the church basements and to help establish free childcare and to also create a community free health clinic that included working with the Panthers [Black Panther Party]--local chapter of the Panthers, as well as doctors from the local hospital who volunteered their time and we've operated out of a church basement until the insurance committee of the church reminded the pastor that (laughter) such activity wasn't covered. But nevertheless it was an enriching experience and it gave me a renewed commitment to that kind of work. I eventually got invited to the board of the New York Urban League's branch auxiliary in the Bronx [New York] through my inquiry efforts and I served that institution for over twenty years in many capacities on a volunteer basis. So I was able to be inside, I guess a civil rights institution from the inside while, of course, working--well I'm still working by the way and raising a family and I'm getting involved in my local community in the civic life of my local community. Politics of course was something I had thought about, but I--the more I worked in my civic activities the more it became evident that I didn't have a connected base that would do me--that would serve me well in elected politics. I made one run--one attempt to do that and--$$What did you run for?$$I ran for school board and that didn't pan out so is was--so I just decided I'd just continue to do this work.$$And did you choose your work based upon what you saw in the South Bronx [Bronx, New York] in terms of need? Did you choose your projects?$$Well, I think I did. I thought maybe that I could bring some of the skillsets that I was acquiring in my work in some of the analysis, analytical work associated with doing graphic analysis and things like this and apply that to making a case for more services. I thought that would be an interesting approach to what were some of the conditions there. Of course in the '70s [1970s] you had the community control issue, school decentralization was, powerful issues here in this city, (unclear) with the Ocean Hill-Brownsville experiment [Ocean Hill-Brownsville Experimental School District], powerful things. Al Shanker [Albert Shanker] drove many of the attitudes about education, or education reform was driven by Shanker and his point of view. It was not a conciliatory time, it was very strained the relationships between the communities and you of course had riots.