Houston, TX Chemical Plant Explosion, Aug 1965


Houston (AP) -- An explosion almost destroyed the main building of a chemical company plant in east Harris County Monday killing two men and injuring two others.
Four other persons were taken to a hospital but released when examinations showed they were not injured.
Witnesses said the main building of the Retzloff Chemical Co. complex "just blew apart." Officials said the cause of the explosion at the plant which manufactures agricultural chemicals was not known.
Killed were JAMES BURTON GRAGG, 31, Houston, a chemical operator, and RAY GILLEY, 38, Pasadena, a salesman for a packing firm.
Injured were BERT FISHER of Pearland and H. WHIT MELTON, 46, of Houston. FISHER suffered a head injury and MELTON second degree burns on his face, back and arms.
"It baffles everybody," said JAMES SHURTLEFF of Houston, manager of the plant. He was covered with insecticide.
Police said the explosion was heard about five miles away and large sections of sheet metal were scattered over a 100-yard area. Other buildings were damaged as were about a dozen parked cars.
BILLY HERVECK, 24, was working in an adjoining building and said he was "knocked flat on my back." He was covered with dust but unhurt.

San Antonio Express Texas 1965-08-10


Hello Susan, My name is

Hello Susan, My name is Randy Gilley. My Dad, Ray Gilley was the other man killed in the explosion. I was very young at the time of the explosion, so I do not have much info on what happened or many memories of my Dad. If there is anything you could tell me about what happened that day or in the time after I would appreciate it. This is the first article I have found on it, and I look quite often. Thanks for your time and sorry for your loss.

Houston Tx Plant Explosion Aug 1965

Hello Susan,
My name is Randy Gilley. One of the men killed in the explosion is my Dad, Ray Gilley. I was 4 years old at the time of the explosion. I have never been able to get much info on what happened. I am 52 years old now, all but one of my kids are grown, and I have way to much time to sit and think about "what if". I think knowing more details of what actually happened would help. I know it is crazy, but I have worked in the Chemical Plant industry for over 26 years. So I would like to know what went wrong. Anything you could tell me would be greatly apppreciated.
Thanks, and sorry for the loss of your Brother,

Houston Tx Chem Plant Explosion Aug 1965

Thanks for posting this article. One of the men killed in the explosion is my Dad, Ray Gilley. I check every few months to see if there is any info on the explosion, and this is the first real info I have found. I was wondering if there were any other info or places to get more info that you are aware of. I work in the same industry and I am at an age where I would like to find out more specifics about my Dads death. Anything you could send my way would be appreciated. Thanks for your time.


Thank you for writing ..
The name has been corrected as per your message.
Stu Beitler

wrong spelling of a name in article

My name is Susan Gragg Courtemanche and my brother was James Burton Gragg who was killed in this explosion. Just wanted to let you know that his name was mispelled.