Dr. Terry Lee Childers (’74), a pioneering alumnus and former trustee of Abilene Christian University, died Dec. 8, 2021, in Abilene, Texas, at age 68.
A memorial service will be held Dec. 11 at 2 p.m. at the Hillcrest Church of Christ (650 E. Ambler Ave., Abilene, Texas 79601).
Childers was born Dec. 31, 1952, in Abilene and graduated from Abilene High School in 1971. He was the first Black freshman from Abilene to enroll at ACU and he became the first Black trustee of his alma mater. He married classmate Essie Charles (’75) on Aug. 3, 1973. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from ACU and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of North Texas (1976), and received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from ACU (2015).
For nearly 25 years, Childers’ career was largely focused on public service as a city manager or administrator in Celina, Austin, Tyler, College Station and Amarillo, Texas, and in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He formed Childers Construction Company and The Childers Corporation, employing more than 300 people with offices in 26 states. Later, he was named assistant agency director for the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.
Childers served on the Board of Trustees for ACU (1988-2008) and for Oklahoma Christian University (1995-2003), where he and Essie established the Childers Institute for Leadership. He also chaired Oklahoma’s Human Services Commission (1992-2019) and served on numerous boards including the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, Great Oklahoma City United Way, State Fair of Oklahoma, College Station Medical Center, American Red Cross, National Forum of Black Public Administrators, Leadership Oklahoma, Bryan College Station Family Promise, and the Brazos Food Bank. He was a former member of the White House Minority Business Task Force and the Murrah Building Memorial Task Force, and board chair of First Commercial Bank in Edmond, Oklahoma.
He and Essie actively served in congregations where they were members, and they participated in numerous mission trips to Africa, including building a church in Mombasa, Kenya. Terry was an elder at the A&M Church of Christ when his family lived in College Station.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Watson and Ruby Mae (Beal) Childers, in whose name he and Essie endowed a scholarship fund at ACU; brothers Watson Childers Jr., Elijah Childers and Billy Joe Childers; and sisters Adelene Childers and Rudy Jean Hairston Childers. Among survivors are Essie, his wife of 48 years; children Shalawn (Childers ’96) Harris, Jonathan Childers (’02) and Adam Childers (’07); a brother, Rickey Childers; and two grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, gifts in his memory can be made to the Watson and Ruby Childers Endowed Scholarship at ACU (online or Gift Records, ACU Box 29132, Abilene, Texas 79699-9132).
– Robin Saylor
Dec. 10, 2021