GENTRY, BRADY PRESTON
GENTRY, BRADY PRESTON (1895–1966). Brady Preston Gentry, legislator and lawyer, was born on a farm near Colfax, Texas, on March 25, 1895, the son of Benjamin Whitfield and Virginia Caroline (McPhail) Gentry. He attended Cumberland University and Tyler Commercial College. He was admitted to the bar at the age of twenty-one. During World War I he served as an infantryman in France and rose to captain. He entered public service as a clerk in the office of the Van Zandt County tax collector. After moving to Tyler he served as assistant city tax collector. He was elected county attorney, and in 1930 he became county judge of Smith County, an office he held for four successive terms. During this period he was instrumental in developing the county's road system. In 1939 he was appointed chairman of the Texas Highway Commission by Governor W. Lee O'Daniel. He was the first man to serve as chairman of the commission for a full six-year term.
During Gentry's tenure on the highway commission, first steps were taken in the development of the state's extensive farm-road program. His work attracted national attention. In 1943 he was elected president of the American Association of State Highway Officials. He also served as a director of the Texas Good Roads Association. When his highway commission term ended in 1945, Gentry turned his full-time efforts to his Tyler law practice. In 1952 he was elected to the first of two terms in the United States Congress from the Third Texas District. As a member of the House committee on highways and roads, he was instrumental in shaping the legislation that launched the development of the national system of interstate and defense highways. In 1957 after his retirement from Congress, he was tendered another appointment as chairman of the Texas Highway Commission. He declined the appointment, however, because of business and personal commitments.
Throughout his life Gentry was a staunch supporter of Southern Methodist University; he also was a benefactor of Tyler Junior College. Shortly after World War II, he helped form the Tyler Junior College District, and the old college gymnasium was named Gentry Gym in his honor. He died in Houston on November 9, 1966, after a lengthy illness. See also HIGHWAY DEVELOPMENT.
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