Billy Rees was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas, where he lived much of his life. He graduated from Arkansas State College with a B.S. degree and a private pilot's license. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army Air Forces as a navigator and navigation instructor. He flew the "Hump" from India to China and then joined the Ferry Command in Long Beach Calif. He reached the rank of major.
After the war, Billy became a navigator for Seaboard. He claimed to have owned 2 nightclubs, 2 liquor stores, 2 restaurants, 1 theater, 1 pool hall, and 1 beer lounge; as well as 19 new Cadillacs and 4 motorcycles.
Billy was predeceased by his son, Billy Raymond Rees Jr.; and a daughter, De De Rees. He was survived by his wife of 54 years, Ione Cartee Rees; stepsons John Randall Payne (Scottie), Dr. Robert Kenneth Payne (Julie); 7 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.
Billy wrote The Sun Does Not Rise in the East about his life and career.
Billy is seen above on the right at his 80th birthday party with his son, Billy Rees Jr.; and grandson, Billy "Hunter" Reese III.