I am sorry to report that James Estes has died. He was a prominent figure in 
early Texas caving and a founder of the Abilene Grotto. What follows is his 


In Memory of
James Hillyer Estes
October 10, 1928 - September 18, 2016
James Hillyer Estes died in Abilene, TX on September 18, 2016. Born October 10, 
1928 in Centerville, TX, James attended Northside High School in Fort Worth. He 
graduated from Texas Wesleyan University on June 2, 1952 earning a Bachelor of 
Music degree. He served in the US Army from 1953 to 1955. After teaching middle 
school band in Ft. Worth for two years he came to Abilene to work for West 
Texas Utilities in 1957. He was employed for 33 years as editor of the WTU 
magazine The Electric Times.

When he retired from WTU, he served as a seasonal Park Ranger in New Mexico and 
Utah from 1991 to 2008, serving in Bandelier, Natural Bridges, and Hovenweep 
National Parks. He was a member and past president of South Abilene Kiwanis 
(later the Greater Abilene club). James served two terms on the Board of 
Directors of the National Speleological Society and was involved in the early 
exploration of Caverns of Sonora and Inner Space Cavern at Georgetown, TX. He 
was a longtime member of the First Baptist Church, where he served as a deacon 
and sang in the choir. His paintings both in oil and hatchwork are magnificent. 
He wrote and published several novels and composed short and long musical works.
James was preceded in death by his parents, Hillyer Estes and Irene Ives Estes, 
his brother Jack Estes, his sister Barbara Estes Roycroft and her daughter 
Carol Ferguson Parmer. He is survived by one sister Lila Estes Curl, by nephews 
Warren Estes and children Jared and Hannah, Keith Curl and children Eric, 
Kevin, Daniel and Dalton, Kenneth Curl and daughter Cara, nephew Gary Ferguson 
and nephew Terry Vance. Surviving nieces are Carla Curl Wilkins, Jackie Estes 
Garwood, and Kathy Denise Gooch and several great nieces and nephews. 

A memorial service will be Friday September 23 at 11:00 AM in First Baptist 
Church, Abilene with Dr. Phil Christopher officiating. Interment will be in 
Myrtle Cemetery in Ennis, Texas Thursday September 22 alongside his mother and 
father. Family visitation is Thursday, September 22 from 6:30 - 8:00 PM at 
Elliot-Hamil funeral Home, 542 Hickory Street.

He will be missed.

Jerry Atkinson.

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