The Early Years: From Texas to Taking Flight
Ellison Miles was born on May 6, 1918 into a tight-knit, middle class family in Liberty, Texas. Ellison shared a love of flying with his older brother, Abe, who taught him how to fly during his teenage years. He also maintained a close bond with his younger brother, Glynn. Ellison’s father worked as a banker in the midst of the Great Depression, and instilled in Ellison a work and financial ethic that would serve him well later in his life and throughout his career. His mother was active in the community, focusing most of her time as a volunteer for the Baptist church in Liberty. Ellison worked in nearby oilfields to fund his college tuition at Texas A&M and University of Houston so that he could continue pursuing his passion for education.
While focused on geology studies in his final year of college, Ellison felt the nation’s collective shock on December 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked and the United States was officially launched into entry of the Second World War. Affected by a deep sense of duty for his country, Ellison volunteered for the United States Army Air Force.
Ellison was assigned to Europe, where he piloted a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber for the Eighth Air Force as a Second Lieutenant. In 1943, he joined the 92nd Bombardment Group in England, where he earned the title of Captain. In total, Ellison participated in over 25 missions during his time in the Army, and was highly decorated for his leadership. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross medal, among other awards, in recognition of his extraordinary contributions.
Following his active service in the Army, Ellison was assigned to the public relations office of the Eighth Air Force in London. He completed several months touring England, Scotland and Iceland before returning to the U.S. in March 1944.
"When you are over here fighting a war...the things you think of back home are not valued in terms of wealth."
– Ellison Miles, November 1943
Back to Texas, Back to Business
After returning to the U.S., Ellison maintained a public relations role for the Air Force for a year, during which he toured America’s war plants. Later that year, Ellison received tragic news when he learned that his younger brother, Glynn, was killed in action in Italy. During this time of grief, Ellison turned his focus toward Texas and reacquainting himself with the oil business. A fervor re-emerged in Ellison, who soon became known as an avid “wildcatter” in Texas, discovering multitudes of untapped oilfield territories across the state.
In 1946, Ellison decided to form his own oil company. Miles Production Company began with only three employees, but in 1951, the modest beginnings of the company were forever changed. It was during this year that Ellison Miles and his friend, geologist John A. Jackson, discovered natural gas in Wise County.
The area they discovered – Boonesville Field – lies atop what is now known as the Barnett Shale, the largest natural gas play in the state of Texas (and one of the largest in America). With this discovery, Ellison Miles changed the future of the Texas oil and gas industry. Miles Production Company boomed, and Ellison formed new drilling company, Trio Drilling, in order to help further develop Wise County. At the same time, Ellison directed much of his efforts and profits from his company toward supporting education and charitable learning programs, with a steady focus on sponsoring education scholarships for a variety of learning institutions.
"No one cared more about his employees than Mr. Miles. He treated us all like family."
– sherry Wilson, director, the miles foundation
Ellison Miles, The Legend: More Than A Businessman
Although he sold his drilling company in 1968, Ellison Miles maintained a fierce dedication to his oil business, and more importantly, his employees, through his final days. Ellison demonstrated extreme loyalty to his team members throughout the inevitable ebbs and flows of the oil business. Regardless of the state of the industry, Mr. Miles vowed that he would always take care of his “crew” – a term of endearment he used to reference the bond he shared both with his fellow crewmen during his service in the military, and his employees. Taking care of his crew was a promise that Ellison fulfilled throughout his lifetime and beyond.
Those who were closest to Mr. Miles recall the simple moments of spending time with him as some of their greatest memories. His gregarious and caring nature is what transformed typical experiences – telling stories, sharing professional triumphs, or simply appreciating a quiet moment – into joyful events for those around him.
What will be most remembered about Ellison Miles are not his contributions to oil and gas, education, or his team. His generosity of spirit, which lives on through the mission of The Miles Foundation, is exemplified each day through the work of those dedicated to broadening the landscape of knowledge and opportunity. Today, the Miles Foundation embodies Mr. Miles’ philosophy, and is bolstered by its core belief: With each individual that is inspired through the Foundation’s work, the collective “crew” is strengthened, and empowered, for many more years to come.
In fond remembrance of Ellison Miles
(May 6, 1918 – January 8, 2004)
Learn more about our founder, Ellison Miles, and his journey to success in Liberty Letters: The World War II Story of Ellison Miles.