Elzy Dee Jennings, college administrator, was born to Walker R. and Nancy (Wiseman) Jennings on March 11, 1880, at McMinnville, Tennessee. His family moved to Erath County, Texas, while Jennings was a child. He attended the public schools at Dublin and Harbin, Jarvis Institute, and Randolph College, where he received a bachelor of arts degree in 1900. He taught in area public schools from 1900 to 1904. He and Ora Dickie Long were married on May 7, 1902, and they raised a daughter.
In 1904 Jennings was hired as principal at the Huckabay Academy, where he remained for four years while studying law in his spare time. He was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 1906 but never practiced law. In 1909 he was selected president of John Tarleton College; in 1911 he enrolled at the University of Texas, where he received both a B.A. and an M.A. in 1913. Jennings was appointed dean of Texas Woman's College at Fort Worth (now Texas Wesleyan University) in 1915. He served there as vice president from 1918 to 1922, when he accepted an appointment as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Southern Methodist University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas in 1924.
Jennings published A Survey of the Austin City Schools (1925) and Devil Can't Catch Me (1937), a humorous travel book based on his experiences abroad. He received honorary degrees from Emory University, in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1932 and from Texas Christian University in 1936. He served on the board of directors of the Dallas Child Guidance Clinic, the National Education Association, and the Texas State Teachers Association. He also was a director of the Anti-Saloon League of Texas. He was a lifelong Democrat and a prominent layman in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Jennings belonged to the Knights of Pythias, the Odd Fellows, and the Masonic fraternity. He died at his Dallas home on April 28, 1938, as a result of complications arising from influenza, which he contracted while on vacation in Ireland. He was buried in Stephenville.