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Louis Derryberry visited Tucson twice. Both landings were related to the 1928 National Air Races (NAR). Information, terrific photographs, itineraries and a downloadable program for the 1928 NAR are at the link. We find him first at Tucson Sunday September 9, 1928 while participating in the race. Based at Abilene, TX, he was westbound from Lordsburg, NM toward Los Angeles, CA, Mines Field. Mines was the finish line for the transcontinental race that year, which began at Roosevelt Field, Long Island, NY on September 5th. The airplane, named "Miss Abilene," was owned by West Texas Air Transport Company, for which Derryberry was chief pilot. Numerous newspapers across the country reported status as the NAR made its way westward. Below, from the Abilene Reporter-News, September 9, 1928 (the day he landed at Tucson), is a marginal news photo of Derryberry and his airplane. We learn that the airplane was maroon and orange.

Abilene Reporter-News, September 9, 1928 (Source: newspapers.com)
Abilene Reporter-News, September 9, 1928 (Source: newspapers.com)


Brownsville Herald (TX), January 26, 1929 (Source: newspapers.com)


His second landing was on Tuesday September 18th at 5:00PM. For this visit, nine days after his first, he was traveling east after the races were over from Los Angeles back to Abilene. He had placed a respectable 8th flying the OX-5 engine-powered Travel Air 2000 he identified as NC2928, S/N 157.

Derryberry continued to win prizes four months after his visit at Tucson. The Brownsville Herald (TX), January 26, 1929 reported on a more local Texas air meet, right. You may recognize the name Paul Braniff among his fellow competitors, the founder of the now defunct Braniff Air Lines. And Reginald Robbins was a Register pilot.

Simmons Brand, Abilene, TX, May 28, 1929 (Source: Web)
Simmons Brand, Abilene, TX, May 28, 1929 (Source: Web)


Louis Derryberry was born February 21, 1902. I have found the usual spelling variations of his name: Lewis or Louis, depending on the newspaper or the Census taker. His WWII draft registration, below, used "Louis."

Abilene Reporter-News, May 6, 1941 (Source: newspapers.com)












He married Ruth Evalyn Andrews (1901-1984) on June 24, 1929 in Taylor, TX, just a month after an article was published, above left, in the Simmons Brand, Abilene, TX. Simmons Brand was the newspaper of the Hardin-Simmons University, a Baptist organization in Abilene. The article states he was a student there, but left in 1924 to pursue aviation.

According to the Abilene Reporter-News, June 23, 1929, his and Ruth's aerial honeymoon was abbreviated when they suffered a forced landing due to a burst radiator. Repairs left them on the ground to enjoy their honeymoon in San Antonio.

Abilene Reporter-News, May 4, 1934 (Source: newspapers.com)



I found just sparse military service information. He enlisted twice. First from March 9, 1925 to December 16, 1925. The article suggests he joined the air service at San Antonio, TX, remained for eleven [sic] months, then returned to Abilene to manage the airport there. The period of service cited in the article (11 months) doesn't quite match up with his official record (9 months).

I found information on NC13959, an Abilene aircraft identified as an Alder-Derryberry A, which was powered by a Ford engine. That's all I have. If you have information about this airplane,when it was made, if it ever flew, wat it looked like, please let me KNOW.

The 1930 Census placed him and Ruth in a rented home ($25/month) on 21st Street, Abilene, TX. Derryberry's brother, Elbert O., lived with them.They were an aviation family. Derryberry's occupation on the Census was coded as "Pilot-Manager" of an "Airport." Ruth was coded as "Hostess" at the airport. And Elbert was "Mechanic."

The Abilene Reporter-News, May 4, 1934, described an air show at the Abilene airfield sponsored by Derryberry. Such shows were common during the 1930s, and were instrumental in introcucing aviation to the U.S. population.

In 1940, the Census placed Derryberry living at 1240 Willow Street, Abilene with Ruth and Colleen, their 7-year old daughter (1933-2010). He continued as the manager of the airport. In 1941 he managed a military baseball team as a "hobby,"as reported in the Abilene Reporter-News, May 6, 1941, right. At some point he moved from Abilene to Miami, FL.

In 1942, he lived in Miami. His WWII draft registration, below, dated February 14, 1942, listed his employer as Pan American Air Ferries, Inc. (PAAF). PAAF delivered aircraft to Africa and beyond beginning just before the start of hostilities with Axis powers in 1941. The reverse of this card described Derryberry as 6' 2" and 220 pounds. He didn't have to speak very loud.



L.E. Derryberry, WWII Draft Registration, February 14, 1942 (Source: ancestry.com)
L.E. Derryberry, WWII Draft Registration, February 14, 1942 (Source: ancestry.com)

The Abilene Reporter-News, July 26, 1942, below, reported an interesting juxtaposition in Miami, FL of a dozen Abilene men in the military. The article cites Derryberry's work with Pan American.

Abilene Reporter-News, July 26, 1942 (Source: newspapers.com)

In keeping with ferry command duties, according to an immigration form I examined, Derryberry arrived on December 18, 1942 in Miami from Natal, Brazil in an aircraft identified as "US936." It was not clear if he was one of the six "Non-Alien Crew." A good guess would be he was returning to the U.S. after a delivery flight to Africa.

He appeared also on other immigration forms as a passenger. He was documented on a British aircraft from Nassau, Bahamas on February 26, 1943, and on a Pan American DC-3, March 26, 1945. This airplane was identified as NC30011. The pilot, Clifford V. Pittman (not a register pilot), arrived in Miami, FL from Nassau. A drawing of 30011 is at the link. All these flights appeared to deliver Derryberry back to the U.S. after aircraft delivery.

His second military enlistment was March 1, 1951 to March 14, 1957. I found just one news article from 1956 that mentioned his service during this period. He had earned the rank of colonel and was assigned to the University of Miami in Florida.

The Abilene Reporter-News, October 24, 1969, below, published a succinct history of Abilene aviation, its airport and Derryberry's role in making Abilene a hub of Texas aviation during the Golden Age. We learn from the article that he never was a military aviator, having washed out of the air service at San Antonio, TX, allegedly because he couldn't master formation flight. We also learn that Ruth was also a pilot. This article stated that Derryberry placed 7th in the 1928 NAR. The Aircraft Yearbook stated he placed 8th. A few other interesting tidbits are contained in the story.

Abilene Reporter-News, October 24, 1969 (Source: newspapers.com)


Louis Derryberry flew West from Miami, Dade County, FL on July 16,1985. He was 83 years old. Ruth preceded him in death May 13, 1984.



The Register

I'm looking for information and photographs of pilot Derryberry and his airplane to include on this page. If you have some you'd like to share, please click this FORM to contact me.


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