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Major General John Howard Burris, USAFR - Retired, died after a short illness on October 10, 2023 at the age of 89. Born in San Antonio, Texas on August 4, 1934 to Anna Ruth LaRoe Burris and Jean Holland Burris, John was the younger brother of Sam Houston Burris and Connie Jean Burris (Hill). After moving to Alice, Texas, John attended elementary, junior high and high school in Alice, graduating from William Adams High School in 1952. During his years at Southwest Texas State Teacher’s College, now Texas State University, John developed a deep love for the military and was commissioned in August of 1956 through the Air Force Officer Training Corps program and entered Active Duty in the Air Force in 1957. It was also during his years at Texas State that John cemented his devotion and love with his high school sweetheart, Edith Louise Goldapp, marrying on October 16, 1955. John separated from Active Duty in 1960 and earned a Juris Doctor Degree in Law from St. Mary’s School of Law, San Antonio, Texas in 1964. He and Edith and their three children, John, Jr., Elaine, and Travis, moved to Alice where, with his brother, Sam Burris, opened the Law Offices of Burris and Burris, where he practiced law for the next 50 years.
While maintaining a thriving law practice, John was active in the USAF Reserves starting in June, 1960 and continuing until he retired in 1994. John served in the Pentagon as the Mobilization Assistant to the Chief of the Air Force Reserve, the highest position in the IMA force of the USAF Reserve. His military awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal, and the Weapons Controllers Badge. John was extremely proud of serving 37 years, 11 months, and 11 days in the USAF, growing San Antonio’s Air Logistics Command into the largest in the USAF Reserve. A USAF reporter wrote in 1990, “John Burris is bullish on a lot of things. You’d better not try to put down Kelly Air Force Base, the Air Force, the great land and people of Texas, family, our country or helpless animals”.
John developed into a dynamic speaker, starting as a Lay Speaker for the United Methodist Church in 1972 and continuing as a keynote speaker for numerous USAF and civic events. His sermons and speeches were thought provoking and moving. In 1988, John was asked to speak about the USAF reserves to mid- and upper-level civil service managers and all military on base above the rank of Major. John was the only military speaker, other than Center Commanders and first Reservist, ever to be invited to be the keynote speaker. Even though John was told to be ready to be interrupted and hand over the microphone when a visiting 4-Star General entered the room, with the main ballroom full and sound piped into two other rooms, when the General entered, he would not let them stop John’s speech. When he finished, the lights went out and John featured a patriotic slide show featuring Lee Greenwood’s song, “I am Proud to be an American”. At the conclusion, John gave a two sentence prayer, ending with “God Bless America”. For over a minute, there was not a sound in the ballroom. When the lights went up, there were tears and the dam burst. The roar went through the facility and didn’t soon end. The speech was a hit everywhere he gave it, receiving an honorable mention of one of the outstanding national patriotic speeches for 1988. John gave this moving speech at least 50 times.
In his speeches, John often called out the sacrifices his wife and family made so he could serve in the USAF Reserves. Specifically noting multiple times that during his absence, Edith ran the farm and ranch. John was a life-long farmer and rancher in South Texas. He and Edith owned and operated an irrigated farm in permanent grass, hay, and grain sorghum southeast of Alice. They also operated and managed a cattle ranch southwest of Alice. In 2003, John was recognized as the Conservation Rancher of the Year by the Jim Wells County Soil and Water District. John was the Director and Vice President of the Alice Water Authority, Director of Mary Dinn Reynolds Foundation, served as President of the Alice Chamber of Commerce and Kiwanis Club, Lay Leader and Sunday school teacher of the First United Methodist Church, Board Member of the Nueces River Authority, and President of the Jim Wells County Fair Association. In 2010, John was named as a Distinguished Alumni at Texas State University.
John is survived by his wife, Edith Louise Goldapp Burris; son and daughter-in-law John Burris, Jr. and Cecelia Dugger Burris, daughter and son-in-law Elaine Burris Darby and John Darby, son and daughter-in-law Travis Burris and Katy Watts Burris; grandchildren Nat Stacy, Ian and Whitney Stacy, Taylor Pena and Jacalyn Gorczynski, Travis S. Burris, Wilson and Amanda Darby, Beth and Joseph Adamek, Foster Burris, Coleman Burris and Jack Adams; and great grandchildren Sloan Stacy, Madelyn Stacy, Davis Stacy, Sutton Darby, John Adamek, and Suzy Adamek.
Visitation will be held from 1:00 PM to 1:30 PM and Viewing will be held from 1:30 PM to 2:00 PM with a Funeral Service to follow at 2:00 PM on Friday, October 13, 2023 at the Faith on First (AKA First United Methodist Church of Alice), 111 N Adams St, Alice, Texas 78332. Burial with Full Military Honors will follow at Alice Cemetery.
The family thanks John and Edith’s long-time caregivers and friends, Estella Medina and Melissa Castillo for their loving care and steadfast presence in their lives.
In lieu of flowers, please consider memorials to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, www.afsp.org
Services are entrusted to Holmgreen Mortuary, 2061 East Main Street, Alice, Texas.
Condolences may be offered at www.holmgreenmortuaryinc.com