Family Stories, Military Service, United States Genealogy

Dr. John Cyrus Gilbreath Jr. an Oklahoma Centenarian

As I was working on my family history this week I came across my great-granduncle John Cyrus Gilbreath Jr, the brother to my great-grandmother Alta Estelle Patterson. I called Alta “Granny” when I grew up visiting her, she lived to be 101.5 years old. You can read more about her here:

John Cyrus was the fifth and last child born to John Cyrus Gilbreath and Janie Melinda Owen on 19 June 1916 in Clinton, Custer, Oklahoma. Around age 16 in 1932, John Cyrus lettered in FFA. In the 1932 Clinton High School Yearbook it says “The school year of 1931-1932 was most successful for the Clinton Chapter of the F.F.A. They won first place in two state livestock judging contests and second place in a third state contest. The Clinton team which represented Oklahoma at the National American Royal Live Stock Show at Kansas City ranked tenth among those from 34 states represented. All members of this team were awarded certificates of honor. The members of the judging teams who have lettered are Fred Davidson, Blyford Dodd, Otto Ediger, J.C. Gilbreath, Elmer Harrelson, Alva Hill, Travis Pryon, and Eldon Applegate.”

U.S., School Yearbooks, 1900-2016, Oklahoma, Clinton, Clinton High School, 1932, image 33, J.C. Gilbreath, database online, Ancestry (, accessed 22 February 2023)

On 3 September 1938, John Cyrus married Rachel Camp in Stillwater, Payne, Oklahoma. From the Clinton Daily News:

“Announcement has been made of the marriage of Miss Rachel Camp daughter of Mrs. Teresea Camp, Stillwater to J.C. Gilbreath, formerly of Clinton which took place September 3 in the home of Mrs. W.D. Bentley, Stillwater, the bride’s grandmother. the ceremony was read by Rev. Willmoore Kendall, pastor of the South Methodist church of Stillwater. The bride attended Oklahoma A. and M. college and is a member of the Pi Epsilon Alpha, a religious sorority. Mr. Gilbreath the brother of Miss Ada Gilbreath of Clinton, attended Clinton high school and graduated from A. and M. college last spring. he is a member of Phi Kappa Phi, a national honor society. The couple will make their home in Stillwater where Mr. Gilbreath is connected with the county farm agent’s office.”

Clinton Daily News, 15 September 1938, Thur, Page 3, Former City Man Weds In Stillwater, J.C. Gilbreath, database online, Newspapers (, accessed 22 February 2023)

In the 1940 U.S Census John Cyrus was living with Rachel in Nowata, Nowata, Oklahoma, which is 51 miles north of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and 20 miles south of the Kansas State Line. John was 23 years old and Rachel was 20 years old. John Cyrus was working as a CO administrator in AAA, the industry listed as Agriculture, and was making $1200 dollars.

1940 United States Federal Census, Oklahoma, Nowata, Nowata, ed 53-12, sheet 4B, family 219-92, John C Gilbreath, image 8, database online, Ancestry (, accessed 22 February 2023)

On 16 November 1949 John Cyrus registered for the WWII draft, he was 24 years old and born in Clinton, Custer, Oklahoma. His wife was Rachel Louise Gilbreath and they lived at 112 S Pecan, Nowata, Nowata, Oklahoma. John was working for USDA Tripple A Division. He was 5 Feet 7 3/4 inches in height, weighed 125 pounds had gray eyes, brown hair, and a dark complexion.

U.S.Work War II Draft Cards, Young Men, 1949-1947, image 841, Nowata, Nowata, Oklahoma, John Cyrus Gilbreath, database online, Ancestry (, accessed 22 February 2023)

In 2011 Silas Allen of the Stillwater Newspaper interviewed John Cyrus’ where John shared his experience serving during WWII:

” In the Summer of 1945, John Gilbreath, of Stillwater, was serving as an air traffic controller on one of the two U.S.Army airstrips on the South Pacific Island of Tinian. Gilbreath served with the U.S. Army Corps, the precursor to the modern-day U.S. Air Force. At the time, Tinian was home to the largest group of the Army’s B-29 Superforress bombers, Gilbreath Said, a fact that was largely overlooked by Japanese pilots. “Siapan got all the publicity, so they got the most air raids,” He said. Tinian had been in Japanese hands since World War I and had served as a sugar plantation. U.S. Marines had captured the island in July 1944 following the Battle of Tinian. Gilbreath worked in the control tower at West Field, which had originally been built by the Japanese. When American forces took the island, members of the U.S. Navy’s Construction Brigade-the Seabees-repaired the field, and American planes began using it. The field is still in use today as a commercial airport. One day in early August, Gilbreath heard about a B-29 at the other strip, North field. The plane was called Enola Gay. An entire area of the North Field was blocked off for it, Gilbreath said, and nobody seemed to know what kind of cargo the Enola Gay was Carrying. On Aug. 6m the Enola Gay became the first plane ever to drop an atomic bomb as a weapon of war. The bomb, codenamed “Little Boy,” caused massive destruction to the city of Hiroshima, Japan. At this point, Gilbreath understood the level of secrecy surrounding the Enola Gay and its mission. Just days before, he said, he had no idea that kind of destruction was possible. “We had no idea what it was,” he said. “We didn’t know there was such a thing as an atomic bomb.” Three days later, another B-29, called Bockscar, left Tinian with a second atomic bomb, codenamed “Fat Man.” The second bomb leveled the city of Nagasaki, prompting the Japanese to surrender, and ending World War II. When Gilbreath heard the news about the first bomb, he said everyone around him understood that it spelled the end of the ward, “We all felt, ‘Well, this is going to get us home,” he said. After the Japanese surrendered, Gilbreath and many other American Troops were packing up to leave. On the day he left Tinian, Gilbreath said, he rode in a truck to the dock where a ship was waiting. On the way to the dock, the truck stopped at an intersection, he said. Standing at the intersection was a group of the military police who had arrested four Japanese soldiers who had been hiding out on the island. When the Marines had taken Tinian, Gilbreath said, a few Japanese soldiers had managed to avoid being killed or captured. The island was dotted with groves of cane, which created an ideal hiding place for the Japanese troops, he said. On the day that Gilbreath saw them, the Japanese soldiers were wearing American uniforms that they’d pilfered, he said. By and large, he said, the Japanese soldiers on the island didn’t cause much trouble-they were simply trying to survive. Although he never found out whether the soldiers had been captured or had simply turned themselves in, Gilbreath said he suspects they decided to stop hiding after the surrender. “I have an idea that they had given up, ” he said. Gibreat said he saw many things while he was serving-some wonderful, some indescribably terrible. but looking back on his years in the Army Air Corps, he said, he’s proud of his service. “It was an experience. It was a fantastic experience,” he said “I don’t regret a minute of it.”

Source Allen, Silas, Stillwater News Press, July 6, 2011, PDF posted by mgilbreath 56, September 7, 2018, database online, Ancestry (, accessed 23 February 2023)

In the 1950 U.S. Census John and Rachel were living in Fayetteville, Washington, Arkansas as a Genetics teacher at the State University with their 7-year-old son John C. the 3rd.

1950 United States Federal Census, Fayetteville, Washington, Arkansas, District 72-34, sheet 13, image 13, John C.Gilbreath, family 118, database online, Ancestry (, accessed 23 February 2023)

John Cryrus Gilbreath III lived to be 71 years old and died on 6 January 2014 in Farmington, Washington, Arkansas. His dad was still living at the time of his passing.

John Cyrus Gilbreath lived until 24 September 2021 in Stillwater, Payne, Oklahoma just seven years after the passing of his son. John Cyrus was 105 years and 3 months old at his death. According to his Find A Grave Memorial “Dr. John C. Gilbreath, 105, died September 24, 2021. Born in Clinton, OK to John and Janie Gilbreath. John was the youngest of 5 children. In 1951 John received his Ph.D. from LSU and taught at the University of Arkansas. He later retired from Oklahoma State University. Two of his hobbies in life were taking care of his coonhounds and enjoying OSU wrestling… Some of John’s words of wisdom are ‘Become a Christian, study the Bible, and maintain a sense of humor.'” Source Find A Grave, Dr. John Cyrus Gilbreath Jr., memorial 79466367, Peggy Barnett 48791192 database online, Find A Grave (, accessed 23 February 2023)

John Cyrus was inducted into the Centenarians of Oklahoma Hall of Fame, in their biography for him they wrote: “John Cyrys Gilbreath, Jr, was born June 16, 1916, in Clinton, Oklahoma; one of five children born to John Cyrys Gilbreath, Sr, and Janie Melinda (Owen) Gilbreath. As a child, he enjoyed trapping muskrats and as he got older, hunting, accompanied by his favorite coon hound Sue. Sue and the other hounds would flush out the game. He recalled how hitchhiking was common when he was young, but not so today. John’s life has been academic: In 1938 he received a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s in 1948 from Oklahoma A&M (now OSU). In 1950 he was honored with his Ph.D. in animal science from LSU. He was a professor in Arkansas for seven years and for 19 years at OSU all in animal science. He volunteered as a judge in poultry shows. John met his wife Elizabeth on a blind date. They were married in 1987 in Pawnee, Oklahoma. John had three grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and two great-great-grandchildren. John Cyrus Gilbreath, Jr. was inducted into the Centenarians of Oklahoma Hall of Fame having reached the age of 100 years. He lived 105 years and three months. His centenarian file will be sent to the Oklahoma Historical Society to become a permanent part of Oklahoma History.” Source Find A Grave, Dr. John Cyrus Gilbreath Jr., memorial 79466367, Peggy Barnett 48791192 database online, Find A Grave (, accessed 23 February 2023)

Find A Grave, Dr. John Cyrus Gilbreath Jr., memorial 79466367, Peggy Barnett 48791192 database online, Find A Grave (, accessed 23 February 2023)

What an amazing life John lived. My dad and I talked many times about finding John Cyrus and meeting him. We knew he was still living in Stillwater, not far from where we lived, and how I wish I had met him.

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