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Wheeler family collection

Identifier: MSS-0026

Scope and Contents

This collection contains letters written to and from the Wheeler family and friends. The majority are correspondence between Betty and her mother, Becca Howell, while Betty lived within the United States and Europe. Some of Betty's letters are from her life before marriage. There are also some letters between Betty and extended family and friends as well as postcards from when Betty's parents took Bim to Canada. The collection also includes newspaper clippings of World War II and several enclosed photographs of the Wheeler Family, as well as Betty’s personal planners, and a scrapbook.

There are also some empty envelopes and partial letters that were found and kept within the collection.

This collection is arranged in

Series I: Pre-Marriage Series II: Pre-WWII Series III: WWII Series IV: Post-WWII, Series V: General Staff Series VI: Joint Chiefs of Staff Series VII: Post-Joint Chiefs of Staff


  • Creation: 1926-1973


Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on access. This collection is open to the public.

Conditions Governing Use

Towson University Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) is the owner of the original materials and digitized images in our collections; however, the collection may contain materials for which copyright is not held. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials. Consult with SCUA to determine if we can provide permission for use.

Biographical / Historical

The primary members reflected in the Wheeler Family Collection are Frances Howell "Betty" Wheeler, General Earle Gilmore "Bus" Wheeler, and their son, Gilmore "Bim" Wheeler.

Betty Wheeler was born in Brooklyn, New York on October 28, 1913 to Becca and Walter Howell, with one sibling Robert “Bobby” Howell. Betty and Bus Wheeler were married on June 10, 1932 in Old Greenwich, Connecticut and were married for 43 years until General Wheeler died in 1975. During their marriage, Betty engaged in many social and diplomatic circles, as well as playing an active role in the running of the Wheeler household. Some of these duties included decorating, sewing, cooking, managing household staff, and in times of relocation, finding a new suitable household for her family. After General Wheeler’s death in 1975, Betty married General Frank S. Besson Jr. in 1980, and lived with him in Alexandria, Virginia until his death in 1985. Betty passed away in Martinsburg, West Virginia on July 1, 2004 at the age of 90.

Bus Wheeler was born on January 13, 1908 in Washington D.C. In 1932, he graduated from West Point and was appointed into the infantry. After four years at Fort Benning, Georgia, he went to Tientsin, China with the 15th Infantry Regiment, and then to Fort Lewis Washington with that same regiment from 1938-1940. During World War II, Bus Wheeler served in an array of training assignments from 1941-1944 before traveling to Europe in November 1944 with the 63rd Infantry Division, which landed in Marseilles, France. He returned to the U.S. in 1945 and became an instructor for a year at the Artillery School in Fort Still, Oklahoma. In 1946, he returned to Europe and was on the staff of the U.S. Constabulary in Germany from 1947-1949. During his forty-six years in the army, Bus earned a plethora of titles in order from 1935 to 1970: First Lieutenant, temporary Captain, temporary Major, Colonel, Chief of Staff, Brigadier General, Major General, Director of the Joint Staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Deputy Commander of U.S. Forces in Europe, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He retired in July 1970 and died December 18, 1975 in Frederick, Maryland at the age of 67.

Bim Wheeler was born on July 20, 1940 in West Point, New York.


4.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The collection is arranged in seven series by time period, starting before World War II. Within each series are files arranged chronologically, and contextually when considering the inclusion of letters not created by Betty Wheeler.

At the time of acquisition of the collection was arranged in bundles by year, although the correspondence were not strictly chronological within these bundles.

Previously, the collection was arranged into twelve series by author, and the correspondence within each series was arranged chronologically.

Guide to the Wheeler family collection
Sara Cantler, revised by John Esh
Fall 2018, 2020
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Towson University Special Collections and University Archives Repository

Albert S. Cook Library
8000 York Rd
Towson MD 21252 United States