Simmons, Terry Lynn

October 21, 1954 - April 3, 2017

Terry Lynn Simmons, age 62, completed his life’s journey on April 3, 2017.  He leaves behind his wife, Karen, of 41 years, son Jordan and his wife Lauren, son Adam, daughter Shannon, and two brothers Don and Pete, and their wives Betty and Linda.


Terry was a giant in the legal community, both in his contributions and in his heart. Terry was an ardent defender of nonprofit organizations and tireless champion for the underdog, because he was one himself. Terry hailed from Lampasas, Texas, the youngest child of Bud (M.R.) Simmons and LaVerne Simmons. He worked tirelessly to graduate from Baylor undergraduate and Baylor Law School in a total of five years. His career led him to work for the Baptist Foundation of Texas where he was able to indulge his passion for nonprofit work which then catapulted him to his work on the national stage. Terry’s work there led him to Thompson & Knight, LLP. Terry’s excellence in his field drew clients from near and far. Terry took tremendous pride in utilizing his talents equally for diverse organizations and individuals. Terry’s passion extended equally to everyone.


Terry founded Charitable Accord and worked as the lead lobbyist and strategist in an effort to protect the interests of charities and nonprofits. In defense of the American Council on Gift Annuities, his efforts in organizing charities led to passage of federal legislation that included The Charitable Giving Protection Act of 1995 (which amended the Sherman Antitrust Act), The Philanthropy Protection Act of 1995, and The Charitable Donations Antitrust Act of 1997.


Terry was a prolific writer and speaker, was gifted in breaking down complex matters and translating legalese into understandable layman’s language. His dedication to social justice and giving voice to those who had no advocate was his driving passion. His strong leadership style and quick sense of humor will be sorely missed. Terry was a member of the Texas, Colorado, and New York state bars as well as the United States Supreme Court in 1996.  He was honored with being named one of The Best Lawyers in America from 2004 – 2017, the Top 100 Attorneys in America by Worth Magazine from 2005-2006, and one of Texas Super Lawyers from 2003 – 2011.  Terry became senior partner at Thompson & Knight, LLP and relished with pride the status of working for a world class law firm. The firm became more than a cadre of business associates and evolved into a family for Terry who offered aid and friendship long after his accident.


Terry has been an active member of Royal Lane Baptist Church since 1988— deacon, deacon chair, and Sunday School teacher. He was a proud card carrying member of Mensa and the NAACP, whose commitment to inclusion would never be in question. Terry loved ice cream and sports; literature and music; to love and to laugh. He thought politics was a contact sport, and closely followed current events. He told stories and jokes and always relished the opportunity to display his wit. Terry kept his sense of humor to the very end, stating that “I have so many things wrong with me that when I die, they’ll have to use the long form death certificate”; a tax lawyer to the end. He was a modern renaissance man.


With all of his professional accomplishments, Terry’s greatest pride and joy resided in the delight of his three children. They came up in every conversation he ever had, and he was quite proud of who each of them has become. Terry always said he “wanted to do well so that his kids could do good”, and that he did.
A service to celebrate Terry’s life will be held at Royal Lane Baptist Church at 4:00 PM on Friday, April 7, 2017.  In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Terry’s honor to the Baylor University School of Law, The American Council on Gift Annuities – Terry L. Simmons Scholarship Fund, the Southern Poverty Law Center, or the Simon Wiesenthal Center.


Arrangements are under the direction of: ARIA Cremation Service & Funeral Home 10116 E. NW Highway Dallas, Texas 75238 214.340.8008


11 replies on “Simmons, Terry Lynn”

Elaine Banks Light says:

With deepest sympathy and condolences to family and friends.

Jessica McDonald and Derek Mason says:

Sending peace and love to Terry’s family and friends.

Sheila A. Hard says:

To those of us in the planned giving community, Terry was larger than life. We will not see anyone quite like him again.

Carole Rylander says:

Karen and Family:
Dale’s and my thoughts and prayers are with you. I so much wish I could attend the service, but must teach a class in Midland tomorrow.

I sent word to a number of Association of Fundraising Professional colleagues about Terry’s passing and recalled:

Terry did a tremendous amount of work to further philanthropy during his career at the Texas Baptist Foundation and Thompson & Knight. He had boundless energy and enthusiasm for our profession – and, you may recall, led the opposition response to threats of nonprofit registration in Texas in the mid-1990s. I am very grateful to have known him since college, in fact.

Responses I’ve received include:
– Thank you so much for sharing this very sad news about our friend and colleague, Terry Simmons. He will be missed. Ragan Rogers Blackmon
– So sorry to hear this news. I was talking with a colleague the other day abut how I first learned about planned giving and Terry gets all the credit. I wish I had one local chapter member with 1/4 of his passion for legislative issues. We have lost a great friend to fundraising. It is a very sad day. Jan Viles Zeigler
– Thank you so much for sending this email. Although it is a sad one, I think we can all agree that Terry was a great man! Deborah Montonen
– I too learned a great deal from Terry. I had the opportunity to get to know during my work with the NSFRE National Board. I am in San Diego for the rest of this week so will not be able to attend. I have forwarded this to Steve Cargill. His late father, Dr. Bob Cargill, worked with Baptist schools and churches for many, many years. Thanks for sharing, Linda Cadigan
– May he rest in peace. David Krause
– Terry was truly someone who epitomized all the finest qualities in a person, colleague, leader, mentor, and friend. Kathy Friend
– Terry had a true gift of being able to make the sometimes-confusing world of planned giving very accessible to fund raisers – like me. Terry was one of my go-to people when I chaired the program committee. I remember one time after his accident when I approached him with great trepidation about speaking to the chapter and he agreed. He had to make the presentation from a chair, but he made his usual terrific presentation. Don Garrett
– Terry was such a good friend to philanthropy, numerous Baptist and other nonprofit organizations, as well as well as an untold number of professional and volunteer fundraisers like me. I met him early in my career with the Southern Baptist Radio-TV Commission and then we also worked together when I was with Southwestern Seminary. I had an office just down the hall from him when the Seminary had a Dallas office for their capital campaign. Terry was a professional in every way, and he also loved the Lord very much. He would go anywhere with you to help you get a gift. He had a major impact in the Seminary’s $100 Million Capital Campaign in the
Mid 80’s. We could have not done it without him. James Holcomb
– Terry spoke at a breakfast that I had for past Hope Cottage Board presidents around 1990. He was so impressive to George Young that he transferred his estate counsel to him at T-K. I love knowing the service will be at Royal Lane and will try my best to be there. He was a gifted attorney and philanthropy advocate. Pagett Holley Gosslee

Terry is very much loved and respected by countless professionals in the field of philanthropy. He touched more people with his smarts, enthusiasm and humor than we can ever know! Fondly, Carole Rylander

Barbara Berry says:

Our deepest sympathy and prayers go out to Karen, Shannon and the entire Simmons family. We are so very sorry for your loss.

Wayne and Billie Watts says:

Dear Karen and family,
What a great man! Kids – We remember your parents as young marrieds with the world at their fingertips. We remember when each of you were born. So much love between you all. So much!Peace and grace to all,
Billie and Wayne Watts

Donna M. Bandelloni says:

I was saddened to learn the news regarding Terry’s passing. He will be dearly missed. I have known Terry for over 20 years from his contributions to the planned giving community. But had the pleasure of working closely with him at Merrill Lynch Trust Company and traveled with him across the country. During this time I learned so much more about him as an extraordinary man.Bin
I admired him as a devoted father and husband as well as a brilliant attorney and visionary for the philanthropic community.
Please accept my deepest condolence and know that Terry and you all are in my daily prayers.

Warmest regards,

Dan T Garrett says:

The charitable and non-profit world has lost a hero, trailblazer and one of it brightest stars. Rest in peace my brother.

Cam Kelly says:

I first met Terry in 1994 when the Texas Lawsuit against the ACGA was filed and he literally “flew” into action like the hero he was. I learned from him how laws were made in DC (the good, the bad, and the ugly), and because my institution had highly placed individuals in different states and someone on the 5th circuit court in TX, we had frequent telephone calls where Terry would call from a men’s room somewhere in DC or from a cab on his way to an airport. I learned a great deal from him and through it all he kept his sense of humor, usually on no more than a few hours’ sleep. We have lost an incredibly smart, gifted and generous leader in the charitable sector and I feel fortunate to have been able to work with him on those laws that released ACGA from a heavy burden. My sympathy to his family.

Carolea Stone says:

I’m saddened by the death of my former boss and friend, Terry L. Simmons. I worked for him for 15 years both at Baptist Foundation of Texas and Thompson & Knight. He was brilliant, compassionate and kind. I will be praying for the family as they lay him to rest today.

Bob Hopkins says:

I am so sorry to hear about Terry’s death. He and Curtis Meadows were instrumental in helping us set up a foundation to teach philanthropy to children. Terry will be missed. Bob Hopkins

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