Burrell Tibbs Papers

Permanent URI for this collectionhttps://hdl.handle.net/10735.1/3561

Charles Burrell Tibbs was born on March 11, 1896 on a cotton farm 1.5 miles southwest of Royse City, Rockwall County, Texas. Tibbs' great grand father was a Methodist circuit riding preacher. His paternal grandmother married Joe Tibbs of Marion, Illinois. Frances B. Tibbs was their son.

In 1909 at the World's Fair in St. Louis Burrell Tibbs' first interest in aviation was sparked watching Glenn Curtiss fly the Baldwin air ship. By 1912, he was apprenticed to the French aviator, Tom Benoist, and worked as a greaseball mechanic. In 1913, he worked at the Curtiss School in Hammondsport, New York and gained new ideas for Benoist.

Tibbs soloed on January 9, 1914. His flight started at Randall Park in East Dallas, but the plane unfortunately crashed before he could finish. He began working with with Lester Miller, another early aviator, from Dallas in 1914. Their business relationship continued through 1917 working as barnstormers in Oklahoma and Texas. It was during that time that Tibbs became a Fixed Based Operator in East Dallas and they set up the Miller-Tibbs training camp business in Marlin, Texas.

After the United States entered into World War I, Tibbs joined the United States Army Air Corps flying in the United States and training other wartime fliers. He was honorably discharged from the service on February 12, 1919.

That same year, Tibbs became a member of the Texas Top-Notch Fliers barnstormers. He also operated a commercial air service and flying school at Municipal airport in Oklahoma City from 1922 through 1929. For the next ten years, Tibbs continued to barnstorm flying routes between Mexico and United States and also worked as a crop duster.

From 1939 through 1941 Tibbs worked at the College Pilot Training School (CPT) in Oklahoma and was a pilot instructor in World War II from 1942 through 1945 . After the war Tibbs sold war surplus and new aircraft until he was employed at the Wichita, Kansas Boeing plant in 1951.

In 1953, he operated a flying service out of Grand Prairie, Texas. At the age of fifty-seven, he flew a World War I Jenny from Bloomington, Illinois to Grand Prairie in seven days, or the equivalent of 750 miles, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of powered flight. In 1954 Tibbs constructed a Silver Wings replica of Clyde Cessna's 1911 airplane. 1957 saw Tibbs as Public Relations Assistant to the manager of Oklahoma City's Downtown Air Park and teacher of cadet aviation classes at the University of Oklahoma. In 1963 he was elected president of the Air Indians, a chapter of the Antique Aircraft Association. Tibbs served as the acting Director of the Aerosphere Show, during the Oklahoma Semi-Centennial anniversary.

Tibbs received many awards and recognition, such as the Burrell Tibbs Day on April 14, 1929 honoring him as Oklahoma's Pioneer Flier. It was a statewide celebration designated by licensed pilots of Oklahoma. On May 25 of the same year, the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce presented him with the official award for his services in the advancement of commercial aviation in Oklahoma and the United States.

Burrell Tibbs was a member of many aviation related associations, such as the Early Birds, OX5 Club of Aviation Pioneers, Quiet Birdmen (Q.B.) Club of Oklahoma and Texas, Air Indians, Antique Aircraft Association, Tau Omega (honorary), Kill Devil Hill Memorial Society, Institute of Aeronautical Science, and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA).

Tibbs logged a total of 45,000 hours during his active flying career. Charles Burrell Tibbs passed away at the age of sixty-nine in Oklahoma City on May 5, 1965. His ashes were dropped from an airplane above Royse City, his birthplace. He was survived by his wife Julia and four children: daughters Ruth B. Crossley and Jeanne Santerre, both of Oklahoma City, and sons Charles B. and Burrell Francis Tibbs.


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