Cover photo for Claude Emory Terry's Obituary
Claude Emory Terry Profile Photo
1937 Claude 2019

Claude Emory Terry

August 12, 1937 — November 20, 2019

Claude E. Terry, Ph.D., DABT, age 82, died on November 20, 2019 of complications of Parkinson’s disease. Born August 12, 1937 in Cumming, Georgia, Claude lived an active and accomplished life. He graduated from the University of Tennessee and received a dual Ph.D. in Microbiology and Molecular Biology from the University of Georgia. He was a Post Doctoral Fellow at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where he worked for the United States Atomic Energy Commission in the Biophysics unit. He then became a professor at Emory University where he taught microbiology in the Medical School, Dental School and Nursing School and undertook grant-funded research into molecular recombination events and gene splicing enzymes. He was the advisor for the Emory Outing Club, served on the Medical Admissions Committee and was selected faculty Grand Marshal for one graduation.

Claude was an avid outdoorsman. He enjoyed hiking, skiing, rock climbing and scuba diving. During his years at Emory, he became an expert whitewater canoeist and kayaker. He was a founding member and third President of the Georgia Canoeing Association. He went on to explore rivers throughout the Southeastern United States, and kayak down whitewater rivers across the United States, Canada, Central America and Europe. He particularly enjoyed his several kayak trips down the Grand Canyon of the Colorado. But his first river love was the Chattooga River in North Georgia. Claude was hired as a technical advisor for the movie “Deliverance.” He helped scout out locations and train and transport production staff crew and actors down the Chattooga and Tallulah rivers. He served as a stunt double for Jon Voight, appearing in several whitewater scenes of the movie. In 1971, using rafts purchased from Warner Brothers at the conclusion of the filming of Deliverance, he co-founded Southeastern Expeditions, Inc., an outdoor adventure company specializing in whitewater adventures. Claude owned Southeastern Expeditions until 2006 and personally led many of its international whitewater trips.

Claude played a pivotal role in getting the Chattooga River protected from dams and development under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Claude took then-Governor Jimmy Carter down the Chattooga by canoe, kayak and raft. He enlisted Jimmy Carter’s assistance in the successful effort to protect the Chattooga River for future generations.
Claude was featured in the documentary “The Wild President” which examines his relationship with President Carter and how it impacted the environmental stewardship of the Carter Administration.

President Carter stated that “Claude Terry kind of adopted me as one of his students and I learned all that I could about handling a canoe and later handling a kayak. It opened my eyes to a relationship between a human being and a wild river that I never had contemplated before that…. When I got to be President, I vetoed 16 different dam projects all over the United States.”

Claude was an avid conservationist. He received the National Wildlife Federation Water Conservation Award in 1972. He served on the Board of Trustees of the Georgia Conservancy and of the Legacy Foundation. He was involved from the start in the efforts to save the Chattahoochee River in Atlanta from runaway development and was a critical participant.

He was a co-founder of Friends of the River, serving as its President in 1977 when then-President Carter signed a $69 million land acquisition program that protected much of the river corridor through Atlanta. Claude was a founder of American Rivers, a not-for-profit organization that protects and restores the nation's rivers.

While at Emory University, Claude began helping the federal government with other river and stream preservation projects. In 1974 Claude left Emory University and became a full-time environmental consultant. He specialized in environmental projects involving rivers and wetlands and later developed a particular expertise in hazardous waste cleanups. Claude continued to work in the environmental field until his retirement and took his greatest pleasure in the restoration of damaged ecosystems.

In 1996, Claude became a Board-certified toxicologist to assist his clients in dealing with toxicological issues. He became a Diplomat of the American Board of Toxicology, Member of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry and Member of the Society of Toxicology. He was co-editor of the Toxicology Desk Reference and of the Toxic Exposure Advisory. From that point forward he focused his professional efforts on environmental toxicology, helping clients and the government to understand and remedy the release of toxins into the environment.

Claude was an excellent artist. He held successful shows in galleries around the Southeast. Two of his paintings hang in the Carter Center. Another is in the lobby of the Washington DC headquarters of American Rivers.

Claude leaves his wife Linda Terry, as well as three children, Claude E. Terry III, Michael B. Terry and Denise T. Wardlow; grandchildren Jessica Terry, Samantha Terry, Emory Terry, Liam Terry, Melissa Terry, Alexander Terry, Jason Terry, Julia Terry, Daniel Hunter, Derek Hunter, Rachel Hunter, Thomas Wardlow and Allyn Wardlow; and great-grandchildren Kolton Terry and Kingston Whitfield. Claude also leaves his sister, Winona Drummond Ricks. Claude was predeceased by his brother Richard Drew Drummond and by sister Jean Vernon Drummond.

Claude Terry was an intellectual and physical force of nature. He was a giant presence in the life of his family and friends, all of whom he led through adventures and discoveries in the creeks, rivers and wild places while also encouraging diverse explorations of the mind. His children and grandchildren in particular, were included in these adventures and his love of the natural world. Their world, and that of all who knew Claude, was enriched beyond measure by his presence and is diminished by his departure.

The details of the forthcoming memorial services will be announced at a later date.

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