Nicholas H. Wheless, Jr.
U. S. Army Air Corps
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 11/30/1942 - 04/27/1946
Weather Officer, 71st AAF BU

Nicholas was born at Schumpert Hospital in Shreveport to Nicholas H. Wheless and Mary Lillian Hicks Wheless. He had one sister, Marilyn. The senior Nicholas worked in automobile finance and drilling businesses. Nicholas began his academic studies at Alexander School, at South Highlands when it opened in 1923. At Byrd High School, he says he was the smallest male in the graduating class of 1932 at 5' 1" and 105 pounds, and at 15 one of the youngest. He grew to 5'9" by about 1936. Meanwhile he enjoyed movies on Saturdays at The Majestic, Capitol, Strand and Saenger theaters, often taking the trolley into downtown. He took his first airplane ride when he was 10 in a Stearman, flown by a World War I pilot. His family didn't feel the effects of the Depression, largely because of his father's success in the oil business. After graduating from Byrd, Nicholas attended Baylor School in Chattanooga, graduating in 1933, then the University of the South at Sewanee, in Sewanee, Tennessee in 1934. By then he had enough credits to enroll at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). There he earned a degree in 1938 in chemical engineering. Back in Shreveport he joined his father's drilling business. He began working in the office but soon realized he needed field experience, so he roughnecked in the Arklatex area and in south Louisiana as well as in the Gulf of Mexico. On January 14, 1939 he married Elise Hooks who passed away in 1984. They would have one child, Elise Schmidt. Nicholas was on a drilling rig in Logansport, Louisiana when he learned of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. His sister-in-law, Emma Hooks, was residing in the Philippines when Japanese forces invaded. She spent the war as a prisoner of the Japanese, while her husband served in the navy. Nicholas enlisted in the army at Barksdale Field in March of 1942 and was sent to UCLA for meteorological training. After seven months of classroom training he was promoted to second lieutenant on 30 November 1942. Stationed at a weather station with six other men at Keesler Field in Biloxi, Mississippi, he forecasted weather. Elise joined him and the couple lived in an apartment off base. After several months he was transferred to another weather station at nearby Gulfport, where he stayed for a year before transferring to a similar facility in Savannah, Georgia. He was discharged on 27 April 1946. The couple, now with baby Elise, came home to Shreveport where Nicholas returned "to work in the oil patch, looking after rigs," he remarks. By the 1960s he had risen to positions of leadership in the industry as president of the Drilling Contractors Association and president of Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association. In that capacity he made speeches around the country and maintained an office in Washington, D.C. Nicholas also became chairman of the board of Wheless Industries; Wheless Drilling Company, Tensah Delta Land Company, and WWF Oil Corporation. He is also the retired chairman of the Commercial National Bank from 1976 to 1991. He is the retired director of SWEPCO and Kansas City Southern Industries, and a lifetime trustee at Centenary College where he holds an honorary doctorate of law.