Ralph Burke Tyree was born June 30, 1921 in Irvine, Kentucky. The Tyree family decided to move to the central valley of California in 1922. There Charles Tyree, his father, opened a small food market in Delhi, California near their new home about 20 miles south of Modesto. Tyree and his siblings attended grade school in Delhi and then nearby Livingston.
Tyree loved to paint and read adventure tales by authors such as Jack London and Zane Gray. These writers and their exploits inspired his South Pacific travel adventures. Tyree entered high school (1934) where athletics and art would dominate his spare time. He lettered in football and in track, as a discus thrower, at Livingston High School. He was also a budding portrait artist. He started painting movie stars such as, Clark Cable and perfecting his artistic skills, using some high school beauties as models. In 1938, Ralph would transfer from Livingston High to nearby Turlock High School because of its better art classes.
After high school graduation in the summer of 1939 he took a job on a Greek freighter, which was sailing from San Francisco to Japan. Thus he finally replicated his childhood hero, Jack London’s sailing adventure to Japan. This was just two years before the Pearl Harbor attack.
After his return he was awarded a scholarship to the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland for a portrait he painted of his future wife Margo. He studied art there for a year and then went to San Francisco School of Fine Arts to further his training. After he completed his two and half years of art education, Ralph began to show his works. His paintings were displayed at the Philadelphia Scholars exhibit and at the famous deYoung Museum in San Francisco in 1940. The following year in 1941, he got his first art vocational experience as a graphic advertising artist for Walt Disney studios in Los Angeles. The wonderful start of his art career was suddenly altered by world events late in 1941 with Japanese attack of the US Naval port in Pearl Harbor Hawaii.