James Bryan Killebrew, 86, loving husband, father, grandfather and devoted friend, went to be with the Lord on March 4, 2012, passing peacefully in his sleep after a brief illness. Jim, as he was known to his many friends, was born in Paris, Texas on February 2, 1927 as the first of three children to Vivian and Leonidas Killebrew. He graduated from Paris High School in 1943 where he was a star tennis player. He attended Paris Junior College and Texas A&M University from 1944 through 1946 where he earned a letter in tennis and then volunteered for the US Army Air Corp Aviation Cadets. While serving in active duty in 1946, Jim used his tennis skills to win the singles championship in the Pacific Olympics. He maintained active military service through 1948 including service in Operation Crossroads, after which he attended the University of Houston where he graduated with a degree in Industrial Engineering. He re-entered active military duty in 1951 as a First Lieutenant and completed pilot training in 1955 and served in Korea and Japan, flying RB-29 Invaders. He returned to Texas A&M University in 1958 as an instructor in ROTC and while there, completed his Master's Degree in Industrial Engineering. After his tenure at Texas A&M ended in 1961, he flew high altitude reconnaissance missions until 1965 in the RB-57 followed by two tours of duty in Vietnam as a member of the "River Rats", flying 104 missions over North Vietnam in the RB-66. He returned from Vietnam to continue his military career with assignments at Langley AFB with the CIA, as squadron commander of the 11th Tactical Drone Squadron at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, vice-wing commander of the 460th TAW at Dyess AFB, and finally as the Deputy Commander of the 26th TAC Reconnaissance Wing in Zweibrucken, Germany. While stationed in Germany, he again displayed his considerable tennis skills by winning both the singles and doubles championships in the US Forces Europe Tennis Championships. He began his retirement from active service in 1978 after serving proudly in the US Air Force for more than 27 years, achieving the rank of Colonel. He was awarded numerous service medals including the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements, the Distinguished Flying Cross for combat in support of operations by heroism while participating in aerial flight, the Meritorious Service Medal with 10 Oak Leaf Clusters and the Air Medal with 9 Oak Leaf Clusters.
After his retirement in 1978, he utilized his aviation and engineering background to serve in multiple roles for several companies in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area including time as a flight instructor with American Airlines. He also started BRU-BUILT Homes, building custom homes in the Arlington area before settling on a very successful career in real estate with Ebby Halliday. He retired once again in 2000 after multiple years with multi-million dollars in sales.
During all his years, he was a steadfast Aggie, sharing the values and traditions of the University with his family. In April, 2012 he became a Legacy Member of the Memorial Student Center where his name is proudly and permanently displayed in the Flag Room. He was also a life member of the Texas A&M Letterman's Club. After retirement in 2000, he remained active with the Arlington Kiwanis Club and Senior Men's Club, serving as President for both organizations. He volunteered regularly to the Arlington Visitors Center to welcome visitors with his warm smile and charming sense of humor.
Jim is preceded in death by his wife of 56 years, Helen Eldridge Killebrew of Shawnee, Oklahoma, his sister, Harriet Ann Ledeboer of Irving, and by his oldest son, Kevin. He is survived by his wife Mary Jeanette Killebrew, brother, Ben Killebrew of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware; son Kyle Killebrew and wife Misty of Houston; son, Keith Killebrew and wife Melissa of Trophy Club; daughter Jill Mrazek and husband John of Arlington; step-daughter Elizabeth Albright of Baltimore, step-son Thomas Smith and wife Christy of Arlington, step-daughter Victoria Smith of Arlington, and grandchildren Jordan, Kristin, Kannon, Keegan, Kelli, Bryan, and step-grandchildren Brittany, Trey and Skylan.
A memorial service celebrating his life will be held at the Trinity United Methodist Church at 1200 West Green Oaks Boulevard, Arlington, Texas on Saturday, March 9th at 1:00 PM. The family requests in lieu of flowers that donations are made in his name to:
12th Man Foundation
Note/Memo: Lettermen's Association Facility Fund - James Bryan Killebrew
P.O. Box 2800
College Station, TX 77841-2800