Name: Worthie Elwood Briles
Given Name: Worthie Elwood
Change Date: 21 FEB 2016
The following information on Worthie Elwood Briles is based on his curriculum vitae from Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois; from a "family history" of the family of Worthie Elwood Briles and Clara Ruth Wilson Briles handwritten by Ruth and transcribed by their daughter Susan Marie Briles Kniebes in 2003; information on his childhood that he gave his daughter Susan over Christmas of 1998; information from a biography of Elwood written by his granddaughter Rachel Florence Briles for one of her freshman classes at the University of Texas in May 2003; information provided by his brother Connally Oran Briles in October 2003; and other information as referenced below:
Birth: 31 JAN 1918 in Italy, Ellis County, Texas 2
Death: 18 FEB 2016 in eKalb County Hospice at the Oak Crest Retirement Center, DeKalb. IL 3
FILE: C:\Users\Owner\Pictures\Genealogy\deceased or close to\drworthieelwoodbriles.jpg
He goes by "Elwood" as an adult, but was called "Woody" by his family when he was a child.
Elwood was born in Italy, Texas, on January 31, 1918, to Worthie Harwood Briles and Leona Hays Connally Briles. He was the first of their six children. When Elwood was born, his father (who went by "Jack" to his friends, "Dad" or "Daddy" to his children, and "Pappy" to his grandchildren) was working as a house painter and paperhanger.
In 1919, Pappy, Leona, and Elwood moved to Idabel, Oklahoma, so that Pappy could work with his father Enoch Elwood ("Pawpaw" to his grandchildren) Briles in the auto repair and paint shop run by Pawpaw and his younger brother Wilbur (born in 1884, died in 1951). On December 10, 1919, Pappy and Leona's second child, Connally Oran Briles, was born. (For more information on Con, see his Note elsewhere in these Family Tree Maker Files.) As mentioned in the Note for Enoch Elwood Briles elsewhere in these Family Tree Maker files, Pappy didn't get along well with Pawpaw's younger brother Wilbur so the family returned to the Fort Worth, Texas area not long after Con's birth.
After returning from Oklahoma, the first house that the family lived in in Fort Worth (called the "Hall House" by the family) was on Avenue L, in the portion of Fort Worth known as Polytechnic, or "Poly."
The second house (called the "L House" by the family) was on the corner of Avenue L and Vaughan Boulevard. Elwood and Con both recall that there was a chicken house associated with this home.
The family's third home was in the Glengarden area, which was in the southern part of Fort Worth and south of the old Masonic Home, which was an orphanage. Elwood recalls that they lived at the home in the Glengarden area about a year and that his sister Bonnie Bell was born there on October 29, 1922. He thinks that the family lived there for a couple of more years before moving to the "5-Acre Place." That would mean that the family moved to the "5-Acre Place" in about 1923 or 1924. Elwood also remembers that the family was at the "5-Acre Place" when he started first grade. We know that he started first grade in the January of the year he turned six, which means that the family would have been at the "5-Acre Place" by January 1924 at the latest. (It was common in many parts of the South in those days to have children start school in the fall or in January depending upon when they turned 6, with most children starting in the fall.)
The family's fourth home in the Fort Worth area (called the "5-Acre Place" by the family) was about 8 miles southeast of Fort Worth near Village Creek. Elwood recalls that his father had reconditioned and repaired the old house on this property. During phone conversation with his daughter Susan Briles Kniebes on January 27, 2003, Elwood further recalled that the family had a sign, painted by Pappy, on the "5-Acre Place" that said "Cottage Oaks." The sign looked so nice that folks going by assumed that the family was running a tea and cookie inn. Elwood specifically recalls a salesman stopping by and wanted the family to handle his line of crackers at "their inn." Elwood told his son David that other salesmen thought they might be running some kind of "night spot" and would try to sell them beer for their customers.
Elwood knows that his brother Van Gordon was born on the "5-Acre Place" and that the family moved to the Kennedale Farm, their fifth home in the Fort Worth area, shortly after that. Van was born March 25, 1926, at the "5-Acre Place." In notes to Susan dated October 22, 2003, Elwood's brother Con recalled that the family lived at the "5-Acre Place" about 3 years and at the Kennedale Farm for about 3 years. However, Elwood figures that they were on the Kennedale Farm for about 5 years (from 1926 through some time in 1931).
During that same January 27, 2003, phone conversation cited above, Elwood recalled that the family either sold the "5-Acre Place" and used the proceeds to help buy the 70-acre Kennedale Farm or traded the "5-Acres Place" as a down payment (or something like that) on the Kennedale Farm. Elwood's brother Con recalls that the Kennedale Farm was about 8 miles farther east than the home that the family had had in Glengarden.
As noted above, Elwood recalls that they lived at the Kennedale Farm, their fifth home in the Fort Worth area, from some time after Van's birth on March 25, 1926, until either 1930 or 1931, when the family lost the farm (could not pay the mortage payments) during the Depression. Note: Elwood later remembered their being on the farm when his mother was pregnant with Jack, and Jack and Elwood both recall that Jack was born on the Kennedale Farm. Since Jack was born on June 06, 1930, the family must have lost the farm after that date. Elwood also recalled that the family moved from the farm to Fort Worth when he was in 6th grade, which would also have been in 1929 or 1930, depending upon the time of year.
Many of Elwood's happiest childhood memories are from the Kennedale Farm. [For a complementary set of memories of Elwood's brother Con, see the Note for Connally Oran Briles elsewhere in these Family Tree Maker files.] Elwood remembers that the farm had both woods and land suitable for pasture and crops. He remembers that he and his brother Con farmed the land with a pair of mules. Elwood's brother Con recalls that Elwood was 11 and he (Con) was 9 when they started milking the cows and plowing with the pair of draft mules, one black and one brown. (Con recalls that one of the mules was brown and one was white.)
Elwood recounts one amusing story about those mules: Pappy worked in town during the day as a sign and pictorial painter. By the time he got home in the evening, it was frequently already dark. Right before he arrived at the gate to the farm, he would honk the horn of his car to let the family know he was coming. Then Elwood and Con would see which of them could run fastest and get to the gate to open it for their father. One winter evening it was pitch black (no moon or even stars) when Pappy honked his horn so one of the boys could open the gate for him, Elwood and Con both started running for the gate. The mules' pasture included the gravel road that ran between the house and the gate. Elwood was making noise like a police whistle with his mouth when he ran straight into the flank of one very surprised black mule. He ended up with a mouth full of mule hair--and Con got to the gate before he did that evening.
Elwood remembers that, in addition to the mules, the family usually had about four milk cows, 15 to 20 sows, and six to eight Hereford calves. They sold the cream from the cows about once a week and used the milk for themselves. The bull calves were sold at the market. Elwood's brother Con recalls that they had a Jersey steer that they fattened with corn just like it was a "beef" steer. Elwood remembers his mother curing pork with salt and the whole family taking castor oil in the spring to counteract all of the fat that they consumed during the winter while eating the canned pork.
The crops that they grew were green sorghum, corn, soybeans, watermelons, cantaloupe, hay, and sweet potatoes.
Elwood has especially fond memories of a special hog trough that Pappy designed and built. It was designed so that the pigs could be fed from above without the person doing the feeding ever having to actually get in the pig pen! Elwood was impressed with his father's cleverness, but his mother Leona was probably even more pleased that Elwood and Con came in from feeding the pigs without being covered with yuck from the bottom of the pig pen!! The pigs that they raised were sold at the market. One year the two brothers raised a "ton litter" of pigs as a 4-H project and showed them and the Fort Worth Fat Stock Show. (A "ton litter" of pigs is a litter that grows up to weigh approximately 1 ton.)
Once, when Elwood's mother was pregnant with Jack, Elwood was cultivating with the mules across the creek. He got his hand caught in the cultivator's shovel-like mechanism. His brother Con recalls that he was with Elwood when this happened. Con tried to free the two fingers of Elwood's hand from the "spring-loaded sweep," but could not. So Con ran to his mother for help. Leona and Con returned, with their younger brother and sister, Van and Bonnie, in tow. Together, Leona and Con were able to free Elwood from the cultivator.
While the family lived at the Kennedale Farm, Elwood and Con went to a typical (for the time) three-room country school. Elwood recalls that the teacher would some time have the girls in the class cook up a "mess of beans" to add to whatever the children brought from home for lunch. He also recalls that, since he was one of the oldest children in the school, he would help some of the younger children with their lessons.
After the family lost the Kennedale Farm, they move to a series of rental homes in Fort Worth, and Pappy continued supporting his family by painting signs on trucks. Elwood recalls that the first one of these rental homes, and the family's sixth home in the Fort Worth area, was on Fitzhugh, which was north of the Masonic Orphanage. It was while the family was living on Fitzhugh that Con had a ruptured appendix, which was a very serious medical condition at the time. Elwood felt that he came very close to losing his beloved brother at that time. In a note to Susan Briles Kniebes dated October 22, 2003, Con recalled that the family doctor told their mother Leona that if even 1 more hour had passed before the doctor was called, Con would have died!
The second rental house in Fort Worth, and the family's seventh home in the Fort Worth area, was on Avenue H, and the third rental house, and eighth home, was on Avenue F. While the family was living on Avenue F, Elwood's youngest sister, Leona Jean (Jeanie) Briles, was born on December 26, 1935.
Both Avenue H and Avenue F were in the portion of Fort Worth known as Polytechnic, or "Poly."
Elwood began junior high at Polytechnic Junior High School in 1932. He next went to Polytechnic High School. He recalls that, when he was in high school, he used to study and do homework while holding the family cow so that she could graze in open fields and alleys not far from their house. He and Con joined the National Guard while they were in high school to make extra money.
In 1936, he graduated from Polytechnic High School as Valedictorian of his class. Elwood explains his being Valedictorian on his graduating in December rather than May, when the graduating class was larger. (Recall that he started first grade in January rather than in the fall.) Elwood says that there were kids in the May graduating class that year with higher grade point averages than he had in December. [Note by Susan Kniebes: Still pretty good for a fellow who went to country school and changed schools as many time as he evidently did!]
Elwood was offered a tuition-only scholarship to Rice University in Houston. However, since the scholarship did not cover housing, books, etc., he could not afford to go to Rice. Instead, he went to North Texas Agricultural College (NTAC) in Arlington, which, at the time, was both a military college and a branch of Texas A & M University. (Now it is called Texas University and is a branch of the University of Texas.) He chose NTAC because he could go to school there while living at home and because it specialized in agricultural subjects. His intent was to get a degree in agriculture so that he could make a living as a progressive farmer. He says that, in 1936 and 1937, he took primarily agriculture-related courses, but, in 1938, he also took engineering mathematics, physics, organic chemistry, comparative anatomy, and genetics.
When Elwood began NTAC, the family lived on Ederville Road. After living there for 2 years, they moved to Rosedale in Fort Worth. Pappy and Leona were able to buy the home on Rosedale, part of which had once been an old school house, and fix it up. The school house had been south of Fort Worth. Before it was moved to Rosedale, it was cut in half. When the house was reconstructed on Rosedale, the two parts were put together at right angles to create a house with an "L" Pappy and Leona lived there until after Pappy's death in July 1979. After Pappy's death, Leona lived with her children until she died in September 1980. (Elwood's brother Jack bought the house after Pappy's death. He later sold it.)
To fund his college education, Elwood worked with the NTAC ground crew spreading gravel and doing other general campus yard work for 25 cents an hour under the National Youth Administration. He also belonged to the National Guard and worked as a chemistry lab instructor. It was as a lab instructor in the chemistry lab that he met Clara Ruth Wilson, one of his students, who later became his wife.
When the family lived on Ederville Road, Elwood hitchhiked to NTAC. Once they moved to Rosedale, he was able to get a ride with the son of his former high school math teacher. Sometimes Clara Ruth Wilson, Elwood's future wife, would get a ride with the same young man. Ruth's mother lived on Annis Street, also in "Poly." Before she met Elwood at NTAC, Ruth recalls seeing him walking to "downtown" "Poly" with his little sister Jeanie.
It was Elwood's undergraduate genetics professor, Dr. Sarah Bedechek Pipkin, the daughter of an Austin naturalist and author, who realized the Elwood was capable of accomplishing more than an agricultural degree When Dr. Pipkin attended the University of Texas in Austin, she had worked in the Drosophilae (fruit fly) genetics labs with Dr. J. T. Patterson and Dr. Wilson Stone. They wanted to collect Drosophilae from all over the country. She encouraged Elwood to collect Drosophilae from the Fort Worth area for them. (When Elwood and Ruth's son David took genetics at the University of Texas in the late 1960s, he worked with strains of Drosophilae whose labels indicated that Elwood had collected the original members of the strain.)
Dr. Pipkin brought Elwood to the attention of Drs. Patterson and Stone at the University of Texas, helped arrange for him to transfer there in 1939 after 3 years at NTAC, and recommended him for a job in Drs. Patterson and Stone's Drosophilae lab. Ruth Wilson also transferred there, after just 1 year at NTAC.
Elwood graduated from the University of Texas with a B.A. degree in Genetics (focusing on Drosophilae genetics) in May 1941. Shortly after Elwood graduated, he and Ruth were married on June 6, 1941. Once Ruth completed her B.S. degree at the end of the summer session, Pappy and Leona drove them to the University of Wisconsin in Madison. (For more information on this period of Elwood's and Ruth's lives, see the Family History that Ruth wrote, which is included in these Family Tree Maker Files as a Note for Clara Ruth Wilson.)
At the University of Wisconsin, both Elwood and Ruth were graduate students of Dr. Robert Irwin. As World War II started heating up, Elwood saw ads all over the University for people to work at the Badger Ordinance Plant north of Madison. They were particularly looking for individuals with chemistry training to work as inspectors at the plant. Since, at that time, Elwood did not weigh enough to join the Army, he figured he might be best able to help the war effort by taking an inspector job at the plant, which he did. This required that he postpone his graduate studies, which he did until he and Ruth returned to Madison at the end of the World War II to complete their degrees.
While working at Badger Ordinance Plant, Elwood found out about an Army Air Forces pre-meteorology training program by reading the journal "Science." Those who completed the 6-month pre-meteorology training program were to receive the additional training needed to become weather officers. Elwood consulted a doctor about how he could go about gaining enough weight to be accepted into the program. The doctor had Elwood inject himself with insulin and eat a lot of peanut brittle.
After gaining the required weight (about 10 pounds), Elwood applied for the program, was accepted, and was sent to Basic Training at Atlantic City, New Jersey. After Basic Training, he was sent to Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts, for Pre-Meteorology Training. Ruth met him there, but they had to live separately and could only see each other on Elwood's time off because Elwood had to live in dorm with the other members of his unit. Again, see Ruth's Family History (included in these Family Tree Maker Files as part of the Notes for Clara Ruth Wilson) for considerably more details.
Elwood and Ruth's first child, Susan Marie, was born on December 26, 1943, while Elwood was just finishing his pre-meteorology training.
About this time, the Army Air Forces decided that they did not need any more officer-level meteorologists and sent the cadets to Mitchell Field, Long Island, New York, to be trained as enlisted weather observers. (For more details on this period, see the Note for Susan Marie Briles in these Family Tree Maker Files.) When Elwood was sent to the base hospital for an additional chest X-ray because he was so thin, he noticed all of the various laboratories. (After Elwood got into the Army Air Forces, he had quickly lost the 10 pounds he gained with the help of the insulin shots and peanut brittle. Thus, the Army was sure he must have TB or something because he lost weight so quickly.) Elwood figured the best thing he could do for the war effort was to use his previous biological science training there. The "personnel office" agreed and assigned Elwood to the serology laboratory at Mitchell Field.
Elwood and Ruth were able to live together (in an apartment in the home of Al and Elsie Palmer in Hempstead, Long Island) while Elwood worked at Mitchell Field, doing mostly serology work. When the apartment was no longer available, a neighbor of the Palmers offered to rent Ruth and Elwood their summer home in the country not far from the base. Elwood bought the family's first car, a 1929 Buick, so that he could get back and forth between the base and this home.
On May 26, 1945, only a few months before the end of World War II (in August 1945), Elwood and Ruth's son, David Elwood, was born. Again, see Ruth's Family History (included in these Family Tree Maker Files as part of the Note for Clara Ruth Wilson) for more details. While Elwood was at Mitchell Field, he was recommended for a promotion to commissioned officer, but, before the promotion went through, the War Department decided that no more promotions were needed because the war was winding down. So Elwood ended his military service as a Private First Class and never had to leave the country.
Page 604 of "The Fighting Men of Texas" (published in 1948 by the Historical Publishing Company of Dallas, Texas) gives the following brief account of Elwood's World War II experiences below a photograph of him in his Army Air Forces uniform:
"Pfc W. Elwood Briles, son of Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Briles, 3435 E. Rosedale, Fort Worth, Texas, was born January 31, 1918. He is the husband of Clara Ruth Wilson Briles, also of Fort Worth. Pfc Briles attended Polytechnic High School and the University of Texas prior to volunteering for service on April 16, 1943, at Madison, Wis. He was assigned to the 1st Air Force, and received training at Amherst College, Amherst, Mass. He served his country from April 16, 1943, to December 6, 1945, at which time he was discharged at Mitchell Field."
The same page of "The Fighting Men of Texas" that contained Elwood's photo and brief account of his war experiences also contained the photos and war experiences of his brother-in-law, James D. Spencer, and his brothers, Van G. Briles and Connally O. Briles.
By November 17, 1945, Elwood was out of the service, and he and his family (duly loaded into the 1929 Buick) were on their was back to the University of Wisconsin, where Elwood completed his Ph.D. in Immunogenetics and Ruth complete her M.S., also in Immunogenetics, in 1948. While at Wisconsin, Elwood discovered two systems of chicken blood groups, A and B. [Note the two different dates for Elwood's discharge. Susan's baby book is quite clear on the November 17, 1945, date, so the December 6, 1945, must have been the date it was technically official, which Elwood confirmed in December 2003.]
From 1948 through 1951, Elwood was an Assistant Professor of Poultry Science at Texas A & M University in College Station, Texas. From 1951 through 1957, he was Associate Professor of Poultry Science, also at A & M.
It was while Elwood and his family were living in College Station that his and Ruth's third child, Sara Jean, was born in nearby Bryan, Texas, on March 14, 1953.
Throughout his career, Elwood's work--sometimes done in collaboration with a variety of researchers from all over the world (including his wife Clara Ruth Wilson Briles and his brother Dr. Connally Oran Briles)--led to the discovery of additional chicken blood groups and of the relationship between chickens' blood types and their resistance or susceptibility to various diseases that plagued poultry breeders. Some of these diseases were Marek's Disease, avian leucosis-sarcoma virus, avian RNA tumor viruses, vaccina virus, RSV-induced tumors, Rous sarcoma, and coccidiosis. His work also determined the relationship between chickens' blood types and other characteristics of chickens of interest to poultry breeders such as hatchability, egg production, egg weight, and livability. Some of his later work involved determining the blood types of a variety of other avian species, including Florida Sandhill Cranes, Siberian Cranes, Ringneck Pheasants, and two subspecies of Bobwhite quail.
It was the beginnings of this work at Texas A & M that brought Elwood to the attention of the DeKalb Agricultural Association, which bred and sold hybrid chicks (as well as hybrid corn, soybeans, and pigs). Thus, from 1957 through 1970, Elwood was Head of Immunogenetic Research at the "DeKalb Ag" in DeKalb, Illinois.
From 1970 through 1987, he was Professor of Biological Sciences at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois, and from 1987 (when he supposedly retired) until at least May 2006 [the date these Notes were last revised], he has been an Adjunct Professor of Biological Sciences at the same institution. Until her retirement in 2001, Ruth worked with Elwood at both the DeKalb Ag and at Northern Illinois University where she was a Research Associate in Biological Sciences.
During his career, Elwood has been a member of the following professional organizations:
American Association for the Advancement of Science (Elected Fellow)
American Association of Immunologists (Elected)
American Genetics Association
International Society of Animal Genetics
Genetics Society of America
Poultry Science Association (Elected)
Sigma Xi (Elected)
He received the following honors:
Recipient, Poultry Science Research Prize - 1951
Honorary Member of International Society for Animal Genetics
Elected Fellow of Poultry Science Association - 1988
Recipient, Merck Award for Research Achievement in Poultry Science - 1994
Formal recognition as one of the early contributors to the study of Marek's disease at the 5th International Symposium on Marek's Disease, East Lansing, Michigan, September 1996
Elected to the Poultry Science Hall of Fame - 2001
Along with his wife, Ruth Wilson Briles, Recognized for Significant Contributions to the Knowledge of Avian Disease Resistant Genetics by the USDA's NE-1016 Project, "Genetic Basis for Resistance and Immunity to Avian Diseases" - October 9, 2004
In May 2006, Janet E. Fulton, Robert L. Taylor, Jr., et al., dedicated an article titled "Molecular genotype indentification of the Gallus gallus major histocompatibility complex" in the journal "Immunogenetics" as follows: "This manuscript is dedicated to W. Elwood and Ruth W. Briles in recognition of more than five decades of research dedicated to the discovery and understanding of avian blood groups. Dr. and Mrs. Briles continue to conduct exceptional research, share their expertise, and inspire scientists to investigate the intricacies of avian immunogenetics."
Other professional information includes the following:
Member of Expert Panel of Blood Group Scientists of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 1963-1981
Invited conferee and lecturer at the World Congress on Genetics Applied to Animal Production, Madrid, 1974
Invited conferee and lecturer at an international conference under the sponsorship of the European Common Market on "Resistance and Immunity to Marek's Disease," Berlin, 1978
Participant in workshop on nomenclature for the chicken major histocompatibility complex held at the Institute for General and Experimental Pathology, Innsbruck, Austria, 1981
Member of editorial board of "Animal Blood Groups and Biochemical Genetics," International Society for Animal Blood Group Research, 1978-1988
Contributing member of NE-60, a technical committee sponsored by the USDA to study the genetic bases of avian diseases
Associate Editor of Poultry Science, 1988-1993
Member of Editorial Board of Immunogenetics, 1990-1997
As of September 2003, during his career, Elwood has authored or coauthored over 207 publications, those coauthors sometimes including his wife Clara Ruth Wilson Briles and/or his brother Dr. Connally Oran Briles. Of these 207 publications, seven were book chapter, 114 were journal articles, and 86 were abstracts in scientific journals or in the proceedings of scientific meetings.
Remembering how much he had enjoyed living on a farm as a child, Elwood and Ruth had always hoped to some day be able to afford some land of their own in the country. In 1970, they found 30 acres of rural land with a creek flowing through it for sale on North Grove Road north of DeKalb, Illinois, and west of the nearby town of Sycamore. They bought the land, with their original intent being to build on it some time, but not necessarily right away. Then, in 1971, when Elwood discovered that he would need someplace to keep all of the chickens that he needed for his research at Northern Illinois University (NIU not having enough space), he and Ruth built a home, a large modern chicken house, and a barn on the property.
Except for some black willows along the creek and a small pine grove planted by a previous owner, the property had been a soybean field when Elwood and Ruth bought it. In 1972, friends and family members helped plant a large number of trees of many varieties, including several black walnut plantations. By 2006, these trees, and other trees added over the years, have grown into a veritable forest.
Over time, Elwood and Ruth bought other land contiguous to their original acres 35 acres so that, by 2003, they owned 101 acres, all of which have been thoroughly enjoyed by their three children and their families. (For more information on the trees on the farm, see the Notes for David Elwood Briles elsewhere in these Family Tree Maker files.)
Father: Worthie Harwood Briles b: 17 OCT 1894 in Italy, Ellis County, Texas
Mother: Leona Hays Connally b: 26 JUN 1896 in Forreston, Ellis County, Texas
Clara Ruth Wilson b: 9 NOV 1919 in Riverside, Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Texas
6 JUN 1941
in Austin, Travis County, Texas 2
- Living Briles
- Living Briles
- Living Briles
- Abbrev: Ida Mitchel Hightower Wilson's genealogy files, some still in her handwriting
Title: Ida Mitchel Hightower Wilson's genealogy files, some still in her handwriting
Comments in these files seem to indicate that mos of them were created in 1957.
Source Media Type: Manuscript
Note: Ida Mitchel Hightower Wilson's genealogy files, some still in her handwriting.
- Abbrev: Original Briles Family Genealogy Information Collected by Worthie Elwood Briles, Susan Marie Briles
Title: Original Briles Family Genealogy Information Collected by Worthie Elwood Briles, Susan Marie Briles Kniebes, Sara Jean Br
Source Media Type: Book
Text: Date of Import: Mar 21, 1999
- Abbrev: Anderson Funeral home
Title: Death Notice: Online: Anderson Funeral Home, DeKalb, Illinois