Berry, Kearie Lee (1893–1965)

By: David Minor

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: November 1, 1994

Military officer Kearie Lee Berry, the son of Thomas Eugene and Viola (Riley) Berry, was born in Denton, Texas, on July 6, 1893. After graduating from Denton High School, he attended the University of Texas (1912–16), where he established a reputation as one of the best college athletes in the Southwest. Although he lettered four times in football and three times in track, his favorite sport was wrestling. He won the Southwest Conference heavyweight wrestling championship in 1915 and 1916. In the latter year he left the university to enlist in the Texas National Guard, thus beginning ten months' service on the Mexican border with the Second Texas Infantry.

Though he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the officer reserve corps in 1917, Berry remained in the United States during World War I. In 1919, however, he participated in the combined American and British military action in the Soviet Union. His unit spent a year and a half near Vladivostok. Berry was promoted to captain in 1921 and returned to the United States to become an infantry company commander at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio. In 1924 he returned to Austin as a War Department student, and at the age of thirty-one he was an All Southwest Conference guard on the University of Texas football team. After graduating in 1925 he received further military training at Fort Benning, Georgia. Four years later the army assigned him to teach military science and tactics at the University of Vermont, where he also coached football and basketball. In recognition of his athletic achievements, Berry was inducted into the University of Texas Longhorn Hall of Fame in 1930.

After his assignment in Vermont, he was promoted to major and traveled to China with instructions to act as a military advisor to that country's army. He was transferred to the Philippines a month before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and, now a colonel, participated in the defense of Bataan Peninsula. After the fall of Bataan on April 9, 1942, he survived the infamous Bataan Death March and spent the remainder of the war, forty months, as a prisoner of war.

Berry was released in 1945 and received the Purple Heart, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and the (Philippine) Legion of Honor award. He was promoted to brigadier general in 1946 and retired the following year. He was appointed an adjutant general in the Texas National Guard in June 1947 and continued in this capacity until he resigned in 1961. He lived in Austin for four years with his wife, Alice, with whom he had a son and daughter. On April 25, 1965, he suffered a heart attack. Two days later he died at Fort Sam Houston Medical Center in San Antonio.

Dallas Morning News, April 28, 1965. San Antonio Express, April 28, 1965.
  • Sports and Recreation
  • Sports (Boxing and Wrestling)

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

David Minor, “Berry, Kearie Lee,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 16, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994

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