Mr. John Louis Dennis, III, former Director of the Audio-Visual Bureau, Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) has died. He was 84.
Mr. Dennis died on Saturday, April 23, at the Benson Clinic in Paynesville, near Monrovia, following a brief illness.
Born in Greenville, Sinoe County, on February 26, 1932, young Dennis was brought to Monrovia at the age of 10 and never returned. He resided in Kakata, Margibi County with his uncle, Mr. C.T.H. Dennis and later entered the College of West Africa in Monrovia, where he completed high school.
John Dennis was trained as a photographer and graphic artist and joined the then Liberia Information Service (LIS), which later became the Department of Information (DICA). At LIS, Dennis worked closely with the eminent American photographer Griff Davis. Upon the accession of Dr. William R. Tolbert as President of Liberia following the death of President W.V.S. Tubman, DICA became the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism (MICAT).
Throughout the years since its founding in the early 1960s, the Audio Visual Bureau, under John Dennis’ leadership, ran Information’s Visual Arts, Broadcasting and Recording, Still Photo, Printing and Television Divisions. Along with the Press and Publications Division under the leadership of Mr. Chauncey Cooper and later T. Minors Kla Williams, Kenneth Y. Best and Johnny A. McClain, John Dennis’ Audio Visual Division was one of the most productive areas at Information. The other major area of production at Information was the Bureau of Culture, under the leadership of Deputy Ministers Bai T. Moore and Oscar Norman, with the assistance of Jangaba Johnson and Madam Wilhelmina Dukuly.
During the early 1960s when most African nations were attaining their independence from European colonial powers, President W.V.S. Tubman regularly welcomed the new African leaders to Monrovia, and it was the Audio Visual Bureau, under John Dennis’ leadership that produced the very large photographs and paintings of these African leaders for placards mounted throughout the streets of Monrovia and at the Roberts International Airport, then called Robertsfield.
Many times when announcements came late that the next day the nation was to receive an important international visitor, it was the Audio Visual Bureau that worked around the clock to get the flags, photographs, paintings and buntings (decorations, garlands) ready by morning for Monrovia and the entire nation to receive the distinguished visitors.
Beginning in 1959 when the Sanniquelli Conference became the forerunner to the Organization of African Union (OAU, now African Union – AU), followed by the Monrovia Conference (1962), the Audio Visual Bureau along with other Bureaus at Information worked around the clock to provide the artistic, photographic, press, radio and film support for these events.
One old Information employee in the 1960s, on learning of Mr. Dennis’ passing, reflected that “During John Dennis’ days, under the leadership of E. Reginald Townsend, T. Nelson Williams, Bai T. Moore, G. Henry Andrews, Chauncy Cooper and a few others, Information was Information.”
Among John Dennis’ close associates in the Audio Visual Bureau were highly talented artists including John Thompson, Caesar Harris and Cecil Phillips, all of whom predeceased him. It was Caesar Harris who produced the mural of the Liberian flag at the Unity Conference Center, which still stands there today as a landmark.
In the Liberian cultural and artistic arena, John Louis Dennis was a contemporary of R. Vanjah Richards, who served for many years as President of the Liberian Arts Council, of which John was a member.
Socially, John Dennis was a founding member in the late 1950 to early 1960s of Crowd 18, a group of prominent young men and their wives. Some of Crowd 18 surviving members are Counselor George Henries, CEO of the Henries Law Firm, Aaron Milton, head of Milton and Richards Architects and Engineers, E. Sumo Jones, former Liberian Ambassador to Guinea, Alexander Brewer, Elfric K. Porte and Arthur Padmore, former Managing Director of Liberia Amusements Limited, now a retired insurance executive in the United States.
Survivors of Mr. John Louis Dennis include his five children Mrs. Shirley Dennis Somah; Derrick; Nathaniel; John Louis IV; Mrs. Sophie Mae Dennis Neal; first cousins Mrs. Rosaline Dennis Cooper; Mrs. Williette Porte; C.T.H. (Chacha), Grandville, Maima and Janadie Dennis; many other relatives and friends; and the Crowd 18 Survivors.