Little Rock Look Back: Congressman David D. Terry

david_terry_fOn January 31, 1881, future U.S. Congressman David Dickson Terry was born in Little Rock.  He was the son of William Leake Terry, who would serve in Congress from 1891 until 1901.  At the time David was born, his father was Little Rock City Attorney.  His mother was Mollie C. Dickson Terry. His parents also had two other sons, and after his mother’s death and his father’s remarriage, David had a half-sister.  He attended school in Virginia, and studied law in Little Rock and Chicago.

In 1910, he married Adolphine Fletcher, daughter of a former Little Rock mayor.  They had four children: David, Sarah, William and Mary. They later adopted a fifth child, Joseph.  The family lived in the Albert Pike Mansion, now known today as the Pike-Fletcher-Terry House.

In 1918, at the age of 37, David enlisted for service in World War I.  During the war, he would remain stateside.  Due to some family health issues, after the war he split his time between Little Rock and Massachusetts.  By the late 1920s, he had returned to Little Rock pretty much full time.

Continuing with his family’s commitment to public service, he served as president of the Little Rock Boys Club beginning in 1928. He oversaw a fundraising drive which raised $150,000 to replace a building destroyed by fire in 1930.  From 1929 until 1933, he served on the Little Rock School Board.

In 1933, David began service in the Arkansas House of Representatives.  The next year, he was elected to Congress to fill a vacancy in a hotly-contested election.  After the primary, he had barely made it into a runoff with Brooks Hays. But he ended up defeating Hays by 625 votes. Hays and his supporters protested due to election irregularities in Yell County, but David Terry was declared the winner.

Though he often was fiscally very conservative, he was also a strong advocate for the New Deal. His first bill in congress was to provide relief for financially strapped Arkansas schools.  In 1942, he decided to run for the Senate, but lost to John L. McClellan.  He ran unsuccessfully for Governor in 1944.  The winner that year, Ben Laney, appointed David Terry to lead the Flood Control, Water and Soil Conservation office. He held this position until 1953.

In later years, he kept a lower profile, even as his wife continued to raise her profile.  Arguably more people in Little Rock today are familiar with Adolphine Fletcher Terry and her efforts to reopen the Little Rock public schools than with the Congressman.

He died on October 6, 1963 and is buried at Mount Holly Cemetery.

The Terry Lock and Dam and the Little Rock School District’s Terry Elementary are both named for the former Congressman.