Thomas Elmer Braniff

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Person.png Thomas Elmer Braniff  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
1950 Braniff FIle Photo of Braniff Founder and President Thomas Elmer Braniff.jpg
BornDecember 6, 1883
DiedJanuary 10, 1954 (Age 70)
Louisiana, USA
Cause of death
plane crash
Children • Thurman Braniff
• Jeanne Braniff Terrell
SpouseBess Braniff
US businessman killed in plane crash

Thomas Elmer Braniff (December 6, 1883 – January 10, 1954) was an original co-founder of Braniff International Airways, along with his brother Paul Revere Braniff. Known as Tom Braniff, he was also a noted insurance pioneer in Oklahoma. In 1928 he formed Paul R. Braniff, Inc., with his brother Paul Braniff, to operate schedule air carrier flights between Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma.[1][2]

Deep political connections

A Knight of Malta.


On Sunday, January 10, 1954, Thomas Elmer Braniff was killed in a private plane crash in Louisiana. Tom Braniff along with nine other noted businessmen[Who?] from Texas and Louisiana, were on a duck hunting trip sponsored by United Gas Company. The duck hunting trip was conducted near Grand Chernier, Louisiana. The group was traveling aboard a Grumman Mallard twin engine aircraft and encountered severe icing while the return trip home from Grand Chernier. The Pilot, Bobby Huddleston, who was employed by United Gas, tried desperately to save the aircraft but was unable to maintain altitude due to the fast accumulating ice on the wings and fuselage. Huddleston radioed that he was going to try to make it to Shreveport, Louisiana, just across the Texas border in Northern Louisiana.[3]

The flight was operating near sundown which made visibility even worse coupled with the reportedly icy conditions. A fast moving cold front had pushed the icing conditions much further South than had been expected.[3] The pilot instructed the co-pilot to radio Shreveport that they would try to land the aircraft at nearby Wallace Lake. The aircraft had accumulated too much ice to make Shreveport. At 5:50 PM the Grumman Mallard carrying Thomas Elmer Braniff crashed short of its intended emergency landing spot, into the wooden cabins of a fishing camp that was located on the North Shore of Lake Wallace. Mr. Braniff and the other occupants, the pilot and copilot were killed instantly.[3]

A large Mass was conducted at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Dallas, Texas, at 10:00AM on January 13, 1954. Over 1100 people crowded into the cathedral to pay respects to the Braniff CEO. Mr. Braniff was interred at Calvary Hill Cemetery in Dallas, Texas.


Thomas Elmer Braniff's Last Will and Testament was filed for probate in Dallas County Probate Court on January 16, 1954. In the will Mr. Braniff left Braniff stock to Mrs. Braniff and other family members. He left the remainder of his Braniff stock to key executives of Braniff Airways, with the remainder going to the Blakely Braniff Foundation. He also left special bequeaths to employees at the Braniff Building in Oklahoma City and E.E. Doggett of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, who was in the insurance business with Mr. Braniff for over thirty years.[4]


Thomas Elmer Braniff had one son, Thurman Braniff in 1928, who died in a training airplane crash in Oklahoma City.[When?] He daughter Jeanne Braniff Terrell died during childbirth in 1948. Tom Braniff's death was quickly followed by his brother Paul Revere Braniff, of bone cancer in June, 1954. Tom Braniff's wife Bess Braniff died quietly in her sleep on August 23, 1954.[4]


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  3. a b c Nance, John J. (1984). Splash of Colors The Self Destruction of Braniff International. New York: William and Morrow Company. pp. 27–28. ISBN 0-688-03586-8.
  4. a b "Family Friends and Emloyees Fill Cathedral for Braniff's Last Rites". Braniff B Liner Employee Newsletter: 1–2. January 1954.