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Interview with John J. Burney, February 27, 2003 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with John J. Burney, February 27, 2003
Date:
February 27, 2003
Description:
Mr. John J. Burney, Jr., discusses UNCW and Wilmington College from its founding to the present day. As a a graduate of New Hanover High School, Mr. Burney knew many of the first students and teachers of Wilmington College, since many of them came from the high school. He talks about them and about some of the first members of the Wilmington College Board of Trustees, including Addison Hewlett. He discusses the roles of John T. Hoggard, T.T. Hamilton, and William H. Wagoner in the development of the college and university. When Mr. Burney served as state Senator, he worked closely with Dr. Wagoner, Dr. William Friday and Mayor B.D. Schwartz to acquire support and funding for the new campus from the legislature and to get Wilmington College into the state-wide university system, which was achieved in 1969. After serving in the Senate, Mr. Burney practiced law for many years and remained active in the life of the university. He served on the Board of Trustees and as Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and also on the Chancellor Search Committee in 1990. Later he was a member of the first Board of Visitors, which was established by Chancellor James L. Leutze.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Burney, John J. Interviewer: Lack, Adina Date of Interview: 2/27/2003 Series: Voices of UNCW Length 60 minutes

Riggins: I’m here this morning on February 27, 2003. This is Adina Lack, UNCW archivist and special collections librarian. I have a very special guest today to talk about UNCW and his very important roles in this university. Mr. Burney, please state your full name for the tape.

Burney: My name is John J. Burney, Jr., I’m 78 years old and still living in Wilmington.

Riggins: Thank you sir. I’ve read your biography. We have in the library some great special collections of yours, manuscript collections. We know about your long career here. You’re a native Wilmingtonian, graduated from New Hanover High School, served in the Army during World War II, went to law school and then served as a solicitor?

Burney: Yes, district solicitor. It’s now the D.A.

Riggins: And you’re known as Judge Burney as your father was.

Burney: My father was Judge Burney, yes.

Riggins: Your father was Judge Burney, and you were…

Burney: I was the district solicitor which is now the district attorney and I served in the state Senate for three terms.

Riggins: Right, I was getting to that, served in the State Senate representing your area.

Burney: New Hanover County, Pender, New Bern and Sampson County.

Riggins: It was then if not before as well that you became very involved in higher education and we’d like to hear about some of that. But first can you tell us about when you came back from the war perhaps. I guess you went away, but did you hear about Wilmington College and its beginnings. Did you know when you came back?

Burney: When I came back, I read about it in the newspaper. Then they had an election. I knew about that, but I came back and on a hospital ship. I came home early. I was discharged on September 4, 1945 so I came home early. I remember people talking about Dr. Hoggard wanting to start a college. They started what became Wilmington College and the people in New Hanover County voted a tax on themselves.

Riggins: Which is amazing, isn’t it.

Burney: To support this college and even as far back as when I was on the Board of Trustees, they were still collecting back taxes. The president of the university was getting some of that money. It’s probably over by now, but I remember way back in the 80’s, they were still getting some of this money.

Riggins: Was it a property tax?

Burney: I was just a regular tax.

Riggins: For anybody who lived here.

Burney: You were taxed on your real property.

Riggins: That’s incredible.

Burney: In my opinion, Dr. Hoggard had a lot of foresight. Mr. Roland who was superintendent of the public schools was a great driving force and advisor on Wilmington College and Mr. T. T. Hamilton who was the principal of New Hanover High School became the first president of Wilmington College.

He was my principal in high school, a member of my church. I was scared of him as the devil is holy water. All he had to was look. He had absolute iron clad discipline at that school.

Riggins: I’ve heard that.

Burney: He had a room that you couldn’t smoke within one block and you could see the students walking. When they got within one block of that school, they threw the cigarette away because they knew Mr. Hamilton meant business.

Riggins: Did you know Dr. Hoggard?

Burney: I knew Dr. Hoggard well.

Riggins: He was older than you.

Burney: Dr. Hoggard originally started practicing medicine in a little town in Pender County called Atkinson, North Carolina. I had an uncle, W. A. Corbett, who came and owned Airlie and had a coffee package company which is still in business. He started out with a basket? back then in Atkinson, North Carolina. His plant burned. Instead of rebuilding it in Atkinson, he rebuilt it in Wilmington and the plant is still out, it’s still doing business today.

Riggins: Do you know Joann Corbett?

Burney: Joann Corbett married my first cousin Wilbur and I’ll tell you something funny about that. In World War II the last time I was wounded, I was flown from Germany to France to the hospital. One day I was laying in bed. I couldn’t walk. My first cousin, Wilbur Corbett, Joann Corbett’s husband, rolled into the room in a rolling chair.

Riggins: Where was this?

Burney: This was in France. He had been wounded, captured by the Germans. The Americans liberated the hospital he was in and sent him back to France. I didn't even know he was in the Army because when I went in, he had a deferment working in the logwoods. He told me that nine or ten weeks after he went in, he was on the front lines fighting in France and Germany because right after the Battle of the Bulge, we became very short of troops. They were sending everybody in that they could to replace what had been lost in the Battle of the Bulge.

Riggins: And he just happened to ….

Burney: He just rolled in. He didn't know I was there and I didn't even know he was in the Army.

Riggins: Well you must have been glad to see him.

Burney: Oh, we were so glad to see each other. The day they gave me the orders that I was going to be shipped home in a hospital ship, I told him, I said, “Wilbur, I have to tell you goodbye. I’m going home”. (Laughter) He said, “Well let me go with you”.

Riggins: I’m sure. But he was alright after that?

Burney: Yeah, he had shrapnel up in his leg. He became alright He came home and went to the Citadel.

Riggins: He went to Citadel. I interviewed Dr. Corbett.

Burney: I was in their wedding, I sure was.

Riggins: I didn't ask her about you. I interviewed her for the same project because she was a long time faculty member. She was the first female Ph.D. to teach here. She was real nice. So you got to know Dr. Hoggard even though he was much older. He was much older than you, right?

Burney: Well Dr. Hoggard was in politics. You know he had a run for the Board of Education. My daddy was always in politics. I knew Dr. Hoggard from the Kiwanis Club as I remember. I may be mistaken there. See I was real close to his son-in-law, David Harris. I just knew Dr. Hoggard. You know back then when I came along, everybody knew everybody in Wilmington including the dogs. He was a fine gentleman.

Riggins: So you knew about the college. You went away to school for awhile.

Burney: I left here. When I came home, I went hunting and fishing every day until I went to college in 1946. Somewhere along the line Wilmington College was started. My closest friend growing up was a boy named Robert Huffman. He was the first student to enroll in Wilmington College.

Riggins: Really.

Burney: Robert Huffman is now deceased, but he was the very first student to enroll in Wilmington College.

Riggins: That’s good to know and he was your good friend.

Burney: He and I grew up together as boys, played on the high school football team together. I left and went into the Army and he left and went into the Merchant Marines. We corresponded throughout the war. I remember one of the letters, it may be in the collection I had that I gave. He wrote my mother a letter saying where is that boy, I can’t find him (laughter).

Riggins: Do you remember anything about the Isaac Bear Building or New Hanover High School?

Burney: I have to remember the Isaac Bear School because that’s where I went through 8th grade.

Riggins: That was your elementary school.

Burney: That’s where I went to school. I’ll tell you another interesting story. Everybody probably knows this. There’s a retired policeman here. We call him Brick as a nickname after Mason. He said the way Wilmington College got its name Seahawks, he said he and some of the basketball players, they had a basketball team, were going to a movie, Captain Blood with Errol Flynn. The ship was named the Seahawk.

As a result of going to that movie, they named the college basketball team the Seahawks. The colors came, the school colors came from the beach sand and the color of the water. So that’s the way they picked out the colors of the school. He’s still alive. Somebody ought to interview him.

Riggins: What was his name again?

Burney: Mason, there’s another man still alive in Wilmington named Douglas Pridgen who was on that original first basketball team at Wilmington College. His name is probably in the book. “Brick” Mason as I called him had a brother named Billy who’s a retired principal. He can give you his real first name. It maybe William as I remember, that’s all. I’ve never known him as “Brick,” I knew him well on the police department. I knew him in school. Known him about all his life.

Riggins: That’s a good contact person.

Burney: He could get in contact with Dr. Pridgen for you. You ought to interview both of them. I’m not trying to tell you how to run your business.

Riggins: No problem, I appreciate the advice because I’m new to Wilmington. I’ve only lived here two years, although I am from North Carolina.

Burney: You haven’t even got your citizenship papers.

Riggins: Did you see how it was filling up really quickly?

Burney: I came home from Wake Forest and I’d see these boys, I knew most of them all my life. Then I’ve got a paper in my house where my father addressed the Third Annual Banquet for Wilmington College. I don’t know what they called the newspaper back then. I reckon it was the Seahawk. I’ve got that if somebody wants it. I’m sure they must have copies of it somewhere.

Riggins: In archives we might have it. It was a copy of the student newspaper?

Burney: It’s the first page. It shows my father’s picture on there.

Riggins: We should have that.

Burney: He is addressing the banquet at Wilmington College. It was the third annual banquet.

Riggins: We might have it, but I don’t know off the top of my head. I’d have to check.

Burney: But I’ve got the first page cause I reckon I got it from somewhere and I tore it out and put it in my scrapbook.

Riggins: They did have the newspaper going way back. What about when they moved, talk came about purchasing this land. Did you hear anything about that?

Burney: Yes, I remember in 1960, we heard about all this land and I came out here with Dr. Lake who was running for governor and all the bricks were stacked up. We could see where they were getting ready to start. The main thing I remember about coming out here was seeing so many bricks stacked up. There were three original buildings for Wilmington College. I remember talking to Addison Hewett, he was a great backer. He was in the state legislature. You have his picture in the library. He was a great backer. He got certain bills passed in the legislature to help this young college.

Riggins: They had a number of astounding backers without whom this wouldn’t be around. So that must have been quite a sight, a bunch of bricks in the wilderness here. What did you think of the architecture?

Burney: I loved the architecture. The whole time I was on the board, I fought to keep this architecture. The best advice I received when I was on the board was from Bill Friday. I was telling him about trailers being put on the campus and how that upset me. He said anytime they put a trailer on the campus, always put in a motion that it has to be removed by such and such a date. If you don’t put that in your minutes, that trailer will be there forever.

I used to put that in the minutes and Mr. Walter who was in charge was always screaming about where he was going to put the trailers. But we got rid of the trailers. I didn't want to see this university with the great buildings and campus being filled up with a bunch of trailers.

Riggins: We’ll get to your time on the board a little later. Talk about…I have here I know you were involved a great deal in the Wilmington College being UNCW. I think part of that was you proposed a bill which we have here and asked to establish the North Carolina Commission on Higher Education in place of the State Board of Higher Education. Is that the general administration basically?

Burney: The State Board of Higher Education was fighting everything we were trying to do for down here. When I introduced the bill to make them a part of the university, the State Board of Higher Education was fighting it.

Riggins: Why was that? They have their reasons I guess.

Burney: I don’t know why. They just didn't like us coming in there I assume. Bob Scott was governor and I knew I’d need his help. So I talked to Dr. Wagoner. Dr. Wagoner, Bennie Schwartz who was on the board and maybe Billy Hill, I told them I wanted them to come to Raleigh and let’s have a meeting at the governor’s mansion. I wanted them to go over this with Bob Scott because I wanted him on our side cause I knew if we could get the governor on our side, we could get this bill through.

I told the governor that I would furnish the food. I furnished venison, duck, quail from my freezer locker.

Riggins: From Pender County?

Burney: From Pender County and we had a big dinner, feast at the mansion. We talked and Dr. Wagoner explained what we were trying to do and all the people that had supported Governor Scott that I knew, I invited them to talk too. When we got through eating, Governor Scott said he had a pool table upstairs and he wanted somebody to come with him and Bennie Schwartz said he would go.

So I went up with them. I don’t believe Bennie tried pool for 20 years, but he started running the rack. I said, “Bennie, for God’s sake, don’t you beat the governor. We’re trying to get him to come around and help us with this bill”. I said, “If you beat him at this game of pool, he may not ever forgive us”. So Bennie let up and he let the governor win at the pool game and I always credited Bennie for getting us in there by not beating the governor at pool.

But we had a great time that night. We talked the governor into supporting us. He instructed Mr. Cameron T. West, I still remember his name, to get off our back and finally we got the governor’s support. We got the other legislator’s support. Howard _____ was in the house, Ed _____ was in the house. They were a great deal of help.

Riggins: That’s wonderful. I suppose at the time were some people thinking, oh this isn’t going to happen so soon?

Burney: Well Dr. Wagoner had a great input with Bill Friday. Bill Friday was a great deal of help. I think without his help, we would never have gotten this university established.

Riggins: And you were a friend of Bill Friday’s.

Burney: Very close.

Riggins: How did that relationship evolve?

Burney: When they wanted to create the new university system, the only type of trouble I ever got in involved in higher education. Back when Robert Morgan was chairman of the Board of Trustees at East Carolina University, he was my close personal friend from law school. He was the attorney general at that time. He’d been chairman of the board at East Carolina. They wanted to make these universities and Bob was fighting Dan Moore on this.

I was close to Dan Moore, but I went with Robert Morgan and we fought the legislature and I got in trouble with Governor Moore. Instruction to the new Board of Governors I call it, Bill Wagoner was a guest and Bill Friday was a guest. So I had a meeting with Dr. Wagoner and Dr. Bill Friday and they talked me into supporting them against the governor.

There’s a book here called The Governor. In that book Bob Scott, the governor, allowed these people who wrote this book to come and be with him during certain times in his administration. One of the particular times in this book, we had a mayor then named Luther Cromety and Donald Sneedon came to my office. They told me they were going over to the governor’s office. I said, “Gentleman, I don’t think I’d go over there today”. They asked why and I said, “Well he’s hot with me because I’m fighting him on this higher education bill and you’re going to catch hell if you go over there”.

They didn't take my advice and in this book that’s here in the university, they saw the governor, Bob Scott. He talks about how I’m fighting him on higher education. In this book, they mention a mayor and a man with him. Well the mayor is Luther Cromety from Wilmington and the man is Donald Sneedon. And Bob Scott is just giving me hell cause I wouldn’t go along with him.

Well I blame all that on Bill Friday (laughter) and Dr. Wagoner because they got me involved in it. Through this handling of the education issue, I became very close with Bill Friday. I used to meet with him almost daily, nightly. He’s one of the most honorable men I ever met.

Riggins: At this time, was he with the university. I guess it was chancellor, or no?

Burney: President. He was president of the university system. I met ______ Taylor who became the chancellor. In fact, I gave the library here a book yesterday on the first university.

Riggins: How did you get so interested in higher education? I mean I think it’s wonderful.

Burney: Well you know I think by the time I ran for the Senate the first time, Dr. Wagoner was superintendent of public instruction in New Hanover County. I went to Dr. Wagoner and said I wanted to talk intelligently about education, tell me what the educational needs are in North Carolina. He told me and I ran on education about what Dr. Wagoner advised me to do. I figured he knew more about it than I did.

Riggins: That’s great.

Burney: Any time education came up, I picked up the phone and called him and ask him if it was good or bad. Through him I went to Bill Friday. I don’t know what my granddaddy said, he jumped out the window in 3rd grade, but he believed so strongly in education, he mortgaged his farm to send his children to college. Two of his children became doctors. My daddy said that he quit in the 6th grade because he knew more, more than the teacher was teaching and he was not being facetious. He went to a one room schoolhouse. He said he honestly knew more than the teacher. With that 6th grade education, he became a judge of the Superior Court.

Riggins: That’s incredible.

Burney: I always said they must have taught him a whole lot in the first six grades because he told me one time if he had had the education I had, he’d be president of the United States.

Riggins: And he wasn’t joking.

Burney: He was not being facetious.

Riggins: When you were in the Senate, Dr. Wagoner was with the superintendent at the time?

Burney: I ran for the Senate. Then I ran in 1966. Somewhere around ’67 or ’68, Dr. Wagoner became president of Wilmington College.

Riggins: He was president throughout the 60’s.

Burney: I gave you all the annual, you have that. He told me that that was the last seal that Wilmington College ever gave.

Riggins: Which was a wonderful story. On July 31, 1969, the day that Wilmington College became UNCW, he autographed an annual for you and gave the seal.

Burney: You’ll see a letter in there. In that letter, there’s some pictures of the men who helped us and that’s me up at the top. Now those men down at the bottom, if you want to know their names, I’ll give you their names.

Riggins: That would be good.

Burney: This is the group of people that helped us get the bill through. This is Ed Sneed, he was the representative from New Hanover County. That’s Russell Kirby from Wilson, North Carolina. He was chairman of the State Board of Higher Education. That’s myself, that’s Dr. Wagoner. That’s a leatherman man from up in Lincoln County, North Carolina and this is Howard Pittman, one of the representatives from New Hanover County that helped us get the bill through. Now where they got this picture from, I have no idea.

Riggins: You have a great memory. I guess being a politician, you have to be good at names and faces.

Burney: I can remember from way back, but I can’t remember what happened yesterday.

Riggins: I don’t believe that. I thought that was you. You look the same.

Burney: My momma used to take a hand, put it up there and say, “Oh Lord, it’s somewhere up there, but it just won’t come out”.

Riggins: You know it’s in there, that’s the trick with memory. This was a really good memento.

Burney: I’d like for that letter to stay with that book if it can.

Riggins: I’ll put it with the picture. This was a great memento and in it Dr. Wagoner thanks you for everything you’ve done while you were in the Senate on behalf of Wilmington College and UNCW.

Burney: I used to call him every night and I said that things might be bad, but that they would get better. We had a great friendship. I miss him, a good man.

Riggins: And he served one year as president of the college and then he became chancellor up until 1989 or so, a good 20 years.

Burney: He had a heart attack and his health just wasn’t too good after that.

Riggins: Were you involved with higher education after 1969? What comes to mind, anything else while you were in the Senate?

Burney: Oh my Lord, the worst time was when Bob Scott introduced the bill to have the old university system torn up and put in the present system that’s in today. That’s when Dr. Wagoner and Bill Friday got me involved. I led the pack and the events in the university system to keep it like it was.

Riggins: What were the changes?

Burney: Well they wanted to put in one gigantic system, to create the Board of Governors that we have today and to change the appropriation. You know each college used to fight for what they could get through their representatives. Maybe this new system may be better, I don’t know. But it created the Board of Governors and did away with the university trustees. I think there were about a hundred of them.

Each college had their own separate Board of Trustees. Then they created the Board of Trustees that you’ve got today, but they don’t have the power they had before. A lot of things have to be approved by the Board of Governors. I fought it as hard as I could fight. In fact it got so bad I introduced a bill, a called it the blitzkrieg. They took a recess. In that book you see, the governor, Bob Scott’s raising hell with me again because I wouldn’t agree to anything.

My two advisors, Bill Friday and Bill Wagoner.

Riggins: Your advisors (laughter) you unpaid advisors.

Burney: I was still in there with them. Really that friendship with Bill Friday has lasted until right this minute. We’re great friends. I’ve been on the North Carolina _____ twice.

Riggins: Oh okay, I’ll keep an eye out for that.

Burney: I’ve got the tapes if you want one. I think they sent me three. I don’t have one from the first time I went on. I don’t think they were sending out tapes of it then. It was an interesting battle.

Riggins: It sounds like it. Now tell us about Friday Hall.

Burney: Friday Hall is very interesting. I introduced a bill to get a marine science building for the university here. It was tied up in the Appropriations Committee and they said to me that they didn't have enough money. I said well we’ll make money. So John Henley was here, he was from Cumberland County. He was chairman of the Appropriations Committee and I was chairman of the Finance Committee.

Now the Finance Committee creates the new tax laws or repeals old tax laws. The bill was up to put tax on soft drinks and that was very controversial among the bottlers in North Carolina. John Henley came to and said, “I just don’t know what I’m going to do. I can’t see over here in appropriations and they want to spend all this money, and then vote against the tax on soft drinks because we need the money to do what I’m doing. But my strongest supporter is the Coca Cola bottler”.

He said he just didn't know what he was going to do. I said I would tell him what he could do. Number one is that we had so much going on that we had to get through, I was going to excuse him from the Finance Committee meeting and state that you cannot come due to the number of bills in front of the Appropriations Committee that we need to get out. That way he wouldn’t have to vote on the soft drink tax bill and make anyone mad.

Number two was I had a bill over in the Appropriations Committee that I want to get a marine science building for Wilmington College which is now Friday Hall. I said I would take all the blame for him not coming if he got my bill out. He took his hat off and shook it and said it’s a bill. And that is the way we got the marine science building on the University of North Carolina and Wilmington College. That is a true story.

Riggins: That’s wonderful.

Burney: Howard Penton was up there as one of the representatives. He had to leave early to go to summer camp. He was in the Army reserves. He called me and said he understood I got the bill and he wanted to know how in the world I did it because he was on the Appropriations Committee and fought as hard as he could to help us get it. I said it was a long story, I’d tell him when he got home. That’s the way we got the bill, on account of the soft drink tax.

Riggins: That’s incredible. What about here in Wilmington, there are bottlers too. The Cameron’s, was he bottlers at that time?

Burney: No, I voted for the soft drink tax. We had a gasoline tax too. A guy named Dick Shue who I’ve known all my life ran against me on the Republican ticket. He would get on T.V. and shake gas cans and soft drink bottles and talk about me voting for this tax and so forth. I said to myself and I told him if I couldn’t beat Dick Shue without spending a nickel, I did not spend one nickel. I did not run one ad, I didn't ask one soul to vote for me and I won, but I made a mistake.

Nobody should ever take the people for granted. I still should have gotten out and do like I normally did. But Dick Shue running against me, the reason he ran against me was I called him a fat cat realtor in front of the City Council and it made him mad. That brought me opposition.

Riggins: The first time you didn't have real opposition.

Burney: Oh, the first time was worse. I ran against my friend, Cicero Yow who had been in the Senate about three terms. The reason I ran that time, I went to him and said, “Cicero, I’d like to go out for the Senate”, was he was going to run and he told me no. Then I began to hear rumbles. Some of the people in Wilmington didn't want me to be the senator. I said, “Cicero, I’m hearing rumbles that you’re going back on your word”.

He said well he had to run. I said there was one damn thing about it, that there were going to be two of us. I won by a landslide by 300 votes. He was a good man. He was city attorney for many years, but he was a good man and a good friend. His brother has been the mayor of Wilmington. He was really my friend too. They’re good people.

Riggins: How about the name of the building, Friday Hall, whose idea was that?

Burney: Dr. Wagoner. He brought that up in front of the board one day and we passed it just like that.

Riggins: And Dr. Wagoner, was he your contact person who said this is what we need, we need a science building and called you up.

Burney: Yes, he called me many times (laughter).

Riggins: He loved having an ear in the Senate, that’s for sure.

Burney: Dr. Wagoner and I understood each other. I figured he knew more about the needs than I did.

Riggins: And that’s why you didn't want the old system. It sounds like the older system…

Burney: Well we worked might hard to mighty hard to get the University of North Carolina in Wilmington in the university system. See it started out, it started during the Depression when they combined Greensboro, State, Chapel Hill, they were the university system. Then the University of Charlotte came in. So we wanted to put Asheville in there so we could get all these votes from the west and so we got the University of North Carolina in Wilmington and Asheville in there.

Now once we got in there, everybody liked the university system. It has been working for North Carolina since the Depression. I think if the people had known just what went on in the university system, it never would have been _____ because you take an example over in the state college. When the state bought chairs, they had a chair testing machine. You put a chair in there, if it was no good, it would fall apart just like that.

When you wanted to study dietary needs in North Carolina, it would start in Greensboro, some part in the university, some part in North Carolina State, they’d put it all together. I told Bill Friday they never did sell their wares good enough. _____ King and I went into the barbecue sauce business together. We wanted this sauce to homogenize. We paid a firm in Baltimore $12,000. They failed. I found out they had a college for North Carolina industry. We sent it up there four times. They homogenized our sauce and it didn't cost us anything. So it was a great system.

Riggins: Local control.

Burney: Local control and they would try to help local industries and I assume they’re still doing it. State colleges are great in North Carolina. There’s so much going on. They need to puff their wares about what all they do in North Carolina. That was what the university system was, all of your farm agents. It was just a great system.

Riggins: North Carolina State University now it’s called, that’s interesting. Yeah, there’s a lot we owe the universities as North Carolina residents. I heard about that. Dr. Wagoner told you that there was a great need for marine science. What else was he telling you that we needed?

Burney: He was always a great believer in marine science. The biggest believer in Wilmington College was a man named Avery Hirsch. Mr. Hirsch grew up down on the sound. He stayed in my office every time I was there. Bob Scott was elected governor, and wanted to know if there was anything he could do for me. I said yes, I said I wanted him to put Mr. Avery Hirsch in Wilmington College on the marine science council. He put Mr. Hirsch…he said that was the greatest act I ever did for New Hanover County when I wanted Mr. Hirsch on the marine science because he quit worrying about the others.

He gave me an emblem, it said Wilmington College and it had Seahawks on it. Last week I had it framed and I gave it to _____ and said I wanted it to be placed where it needs to go. He said he would probably send it out to the alumni. I’ll have to call Tyrone and see what he’s done with it. But I thought if I just gave it to somebody, they’d stick it in a drawer, but if I had it framed, they’d have to hang it somewhere.

Riggins: Right, that’s a good idea. I’m sure he followed up on that.

Burney: Well I’m going to call him today.

Riggins: He told you about the need for marine sciences which is true. I mean now we have our undergraduate program being one of the top three or four in the country and we have a very strong graduate program as well.

Burney: We sure do. Now Jack _____ puts his heart to that. Our big battle to start with was with Duke and Moorehead City.

Riggins: And I think still to this day.

Burney: Oh to this day we’re still battling. Even the University of North Carolina doesn’t want us to get this doctorate degree down here.

Riggins: Because they have one too.

Burney: It’s been a battle all the way along because Duke had a marine science program at Moorehead and Moorehead wanted this. I don’t know why all this jealousy is in there. We’re all trying to do the same thing, but we’re moving ahead.

Riggins: That is for sure. No doubt about it. You came back from the Senate, decided not to run for a third term. So you were in the Senate for…

Burney: Three terms, ’67, ’69 and ’71.

Riggins: Wow and you came back and practiced law and became still very involved in your community. You were asked to serve on the Board of Trustees and you were chair of the Board of Trustees.

Burney: Right, for two terms.

Riggins: In the 70’s.

Burney: Right, served on the search committee to employ Chancellor Leutze.

Riggins: Were you the chair of that committee?

Burney: No, Pete _______ was the chairman because he was the chairman of the Board of Trustees at that time. Dr. Wagoner wanted the chairman of the Board of Trustees to be the chairman. I was on that search committee. Jack _____ was very active, the various members of the faculty. It was a good committee. We worked hard. We were interviewing one man that didn't have a doctorate degree and the faculty out here demonstrated.

Riggins: I heard about this.

Burney: They demonstrated and just raised pure hell. I told Franklin Bochner, the present chairman of the board here, I said, “Now you’re going to be on that search committee and hold about three years at the college so all the professors can get their two cents in and that will get a big load off your back”. He told me they did it.

Riggins: They sure did, they had open meetings, many.

Burney: I told them to have all they could.

Riggins: That was good advice.

Burney: I think it was very excellent advice.

Riggins: There was a bit of a controversy about that.

Burney: Well we didn't hold but one hearing at the college and we should have held about three. I think that was the biggest mistake we made. I think the smartest thing we did, when we did our interviewing, we did it in Charlotte. We didn't do it locally. Then when we had the final two or three, we did it here. When we interviewed, it was three or four days up there. All the people we’d fly them in here…

Riggins: Finally was Dr. Leutze the one you recommended?

Burney: Yes. Bill Friday was one of his big backers. He sure was.

Riggins: I remember hearing about that committee. There were only two faculty members, no, there were three faculty members on that committee. Were they sometimes closed off from some meetings.

Burney: Not that I remember.

Riggins: Dr. Fink from history?

BURNEY: We didn't agree on many things. She was a way out liberal. One day we were kind of in a subcommittee and I said we should call Bill Friday and ask him. So I called him. He said we’re on the high, talking to Bill Friday, he said they had it has high as you could get. He gave us good advice. Every time we got stuck, I talked to him because he knew. We followed his advice.

Riggins: When you had problems, that’s good to have a friend like that. Go to the top.

Burney: Pick up the top, go to top. I think she was a lot of our problems, but I may be wrong. But she finally got disgusted and left Wilmington. She’s a good woman. She and I just didn't agree, but she’s still a good woman.

Riggins: So that was a lot of work. What else when you were on the board, many issues came up I know. We have the minutes in the archives from those years. What were some of the issues you were working on? I’m sure all of the construction on campus.

Burney: All the construction. Miss Cassie Burris was a lady that recorded all our minutes. She was a great lady, very close to Dr. Wagoner. She always got all the minutes down right. One of the things I worked on so hard, we didn't have any landmarks out here. I created a landmark bill. I got Sam Bissett, Dr. Bear, Billy Hill and we proposed these landmarks.

I’ve got the report at my home. When we made our report, Bill Friday came down to the meeting. I went off the board and nobody was there to fight for the landmark committee and they gutted it. Everything we proposed was dead.

Riggins: I found a letter in your manuscript collection from Dr. Leutze and he said while certain things weren’t passed…

Burney: I’m telling you it was dead… D-E-A-D. In fact Sam Bissett and I went to Dr. Leutze and told him that we wanted him to release everything that we had done if we could find some private enterprise to help us put some of this landmarks up and they released it to us. They missed a good deal.

Riggins: They took some of the concepts, like they constructed their own sculpture I suppose and their own gazebo.

Burney: They’ve done it all.

Riggins: We have some very recent letters and correspondence from you which is good cause it shows the chronology of your long association with UNCW.

Burney: If I could have stayed on that board, I believe I could have gotten of this stuff through. Dr. Leutze wasn’t going to hold up all this, he saw another need. The biggest thing with we have is the faculty _____, they thought we could take that money and do something else with it. We were going to raise the money. In fact, I raised some money. I wonder what they did with the money I raised.

Riggins: I understand you have a real interest in art. You would have lent a lot of expertise to the project.

Burney: I would have tried. See Charlie Boney decided a part of this program. It was a great thing. We had a _____ flooring in it with a map of southeastern North Carolina in it. Somewhere out here, and Charlie’s got it, you might ask him, he’s got that design he designed for that landmark. It was unique and we had Hayward Bellamy and Dr. Corbett. We designed the flags. They still use the flag. That was one thing, out of this landmark committee, you’ve got the flag.

They did all the research. We were going to put all the things that happened historically in eastern North Carolina from the beginning. Dr. Bellamy and Dr. Corbett, they did the research on this. We had all that. I know she served on the flag committee because I’ve got a picture with Dr. Hayward Bellamy and Dr. Joanne Corbett holding up the new flag. He said here’s the picture with the flag so that’s one thing we got passed.

Riggins: And that’s the UNCW flag. I don’t even know what that looks like. What they show when they gave games?

Burney: I don’t know, but I’ve got a picture of it if you need it. Charlie Boney made this design of all this, the water was going flow in it just like the Cape Fear River and we were going to have all these historical…we did a lot of work. They killed that dead.

Riggins: How does one get on the Board of Trustees of a university? Did Dr. Wagoner ask you? Back in your day.

Burney: I think Dr. Wagoner recommended me. The governor appoints so many and the Board of Governors appoints so many. I think Dr. Wagoner recommended me to Bill Friday and through him I got on to the Board of Governors.

Riggins: Then Dr. Leutze came along and you stepped off the board.

Burney: I went off the board when he came. I had served eight years.

Riggins: I understand now or until very recently, you were on the Board of Visitors, the first Board of Visitors to the university.

Burney: Yes, I served on that.

Riggins: How did that come about?

Burney: Dr. Leutze appointed me to that.

Riggins: I can’t believe it, so we didn't have a Board of Visitors until he came. That was one of his goals. I think that’s very important.

Burney: He’s had a lot of good people on that board. I’m sure they’re still functioning.

Riggins: What were some of the issues that came up?

Burney: Well he was trying to improve things at the university. If a man from Charlotte had a representative up there that could help us in some way, we had an agenda and various things that we were trying to do to improve the university. And it was worth while. We’d meet about four times a year and he had people from all over the state. What he was really trying to do in my opinion was get people interested in this university to see what they could do to help.

Then he was educating them on what was going on out here which was very important. I was chairman of the board, I used to put them on a bus and rise them through this campus. Then I’d spend another meeting telling them the history, the history of the university system and how it all came about. I’m sure somebody ____________.

Riggins: With the Board of Visitors, it was an extra body without the responsibilities of the Trustees.

Burney: There’s a lot more people working out here now from different areas to tell the Board of Visitors what’s going on because there’s so much going on that we didn't have then, which is good.

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