History of Gay and Lesbian Life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin - People - Bios

Ilet 'Tina' Terry


July 10, 1993
Primary Involvements:

Bar owner





Ilet Terry, known to everyone as "Tina", owned a series of LGBT bars catering to the African American (black) community from about 1982 to 1993. All the bars were named "Tina's RTI" which was located in 4 different locations over its 10 years.

Terry was shot and killed at her bar at 634 W. North Avenue on July 10, 1993 during a robbery at the bar, in which her doorman, Carlton Jackson, was also injured.

In Step magazine's editor, Ron Geiman, wrote the following account of her death, and her life as a LGBT bar owner, in the July 15-28, 1993 issue of the magazine:

    Tina Shot To Death

    Tragic Death Impacts LesBiGay African Americans

    Milwaukee- Tina's RTI owner Ilet (Tina) Terry, 47. was shot to death early July 10, when she came to the aid of her critically wounded security/ door man Carlton Jackson, 35. The shootings occurred at approximately 2 15am Saturday at the bar located at 634 West North Avenue in Milwaukee, when Jackson stopped two males from entering the premises, which was closing.

    During the argument with Jackson, one of the men pulled out a handgun and fired four shots into Jackson. Tina was fatally shot in the chest when she intervened in the altercation.

    Jackson was reported "doing better" Sunday evening while in the Intensive Care Unit of the Milwaukee County Medical Complex following surgery Saturday morning.

    After shooting Terry. one of the assailants jumped over the bar's counter and emptied the cash register. About 10 persons were left in the bar according to police, but none of them were injured or robbed.

    After fleeing the popular nightspot on foot, they encountered a 21 year old man on the street a block away whom they robbed. One of the assailants fired a shot which ricocheted off the sidewalk and struck the victim in the knee. He was treated at the Medical Complex and released.

    Terry was a virtual icon in Milwaukee's African American LesBiGay community and in her neighborhood.

    Terry operated a LesBiGay bar in various north side locations for well over 10 years and enjoyed a special place in many hearts. Rodney Johnson of Ujima commented, "Her death is a big (sp) blow, a big loss to our community which can be compared to the Dahmer case in the impact it will have." He continued, "Tina's has been the single consistent meeting place for us. The foundation of what we had as a Black Gay and Lesbian community has been pulled out from under us. It leaves a big void that's going to be felt for a long, long time."

    Johnson also said Tina "was very adamant about keeping the bar in the inner city for the Black community."

    Lula Reams, of LOC Women Of Color explained that Tina had been married years ago but they split about 20 years ago "It doesn't matter what her sexual preference was, but who she was She allowed all people to be who they were, in her presence, and that is really special." Reams commented that over the years many Blacks called her bars "home". "Tina came along when, for most of us, there was no place to go. She gave us a safe place, where we could be comfortable being ourselves." Tina was community minded, Reams said, and she was "there for a lot of people who needed a role model."

    Terry lived just blocks away from the tavern at 24th & Lloyd Streets. As news of her death spread through the community an impromptu vigil was held in front of her home she shared with her 104 year old mother and diabetic sister whom Tina helped care for.

    Neighbors, friends and community members called her death "a loss to the community " They saluted her as "Generous and kind-hearted," "A friend and mother-image to many," "She was always helping someone," and other praises.

    Police arrested three suspects Sunday afternoon according to the Monday Milwaukee Sentinel. Police didn't say how the third man was involved or where they were arrested.

    The visitation was held Tuesday night, with church service and burial on Wednesday, July 14, 1 pm at Corinth Missionary Baptist Church, 1874 N 24th Place (24th Place & Vine).

See various related articles to the right on this page.

While several articles shortly after her death mention a "Tina Terry Foundation", we have not yet located any follow-up information about that organization.


Article on her death
(In Step v10-14, July 1993)
(see text of this article to left)

Terry laid to rest, suspects charged
(In Step v10-15, July-Aug. 1993)

Picnic held with donations suggested
to "Tina Terry Foundation"
(In Step v10-18, Sept. 1993)

One man guilty, another on trial
(In Step v10-21, Oct-Nov 1993)

Second man found guilty
(In Step v10-22, November 1993)

Man sentenced for killing
(In Step v11-01, January 1994)

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Last updated: February-2022.

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