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Interview with John J. Burney, March 6, 2003 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with John J. Burney, March 6, 2003
March 6, 2003
In the 2nd tape of the 2-tape interview, Dr. Burney continues his reflections on his associations with UNC-Wilmington. He discusses his work with Dr. Hubert Eaton on the Board of Trustees and as his attorney. He also discusses other past members of the Board of Trustees and the contributions of administrators Carl Dempsey and Mr. Walton. Included are his thoughts on the John J. Burney Student Support Center--named in his honor--his thoughts on the architecture on campus, and his life in retirement, which includes working on his farm, reading and writing.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Burney, John J. Interviewer: Lack, Adina Date of Interview: 3/6/2003 Series: Voices of UNCW Length 60 minutes

Riggins: We’re back, this is Adina Lack still, on February 27 and I’m here with Mr. John J. Burney Jr. We’re continuing our discussion of his long association with UNCW including with Mr. Burney being on the, being on the UNCW Board of Governors and serving as its chair from ’82 to ’84 and on the Board of Trustees from ’81 to ’89 as well as many other involvements including his being state senator. I’d like to ask about when you were chair of the Board of Trustees, who was on the board then? Was Bennie Schwartz on the board?

Burney: At one time, yes. He was one of the original backers of the university, served on the board way back there. He was on the board and during that time, they named Schwartz Hall after him.

Riggins: The residence hall. So you’ve known him…

Burney: I’ve known him all my life and his brother Bill. Former mayor of Wilmington, Bennie was the mayor of Wilmington. Bennie served in the Senate.

Riggins: He served in the State Senate? I didn't realize that. Before you I would guess.

Burney: He served a couple of terms as I remember. He was very gung ho about this university. His wife was too. His wife has a plaque in the college about starting…

Riggins: Oh yes she was active in Friends of Wilmington College, very involved.

Burney: They were both very involved with the formation of this university.

Riggins: What about Mr. Block? I guess there’s a Franklin Block, but he’s much younger.

Burney: Franklin came along later.

Riggins: He was the first on his family to be on the board, the UNCW Board of Trustees. Who else do you remember from your associations with being chair.

Burney: Well Jack Ashby, he was a very valuable member, Dr. John Cott___, he is now deceased. They were the Republican members of the board back then. We’d always tease them about it. They were both very active, very strong for the college. Dr. John Deese from Burgaw served, Clifton Moore from Burgaw served on the board. Various presidents of the university student body, they served on the board. Eddy Cameron, Dan Cameron’s wife served on the board. Margaret Haywood, she served on the board. Justin Rafael was another Republican member, active in the American Legion, a very patriotic American. He served on the board.

Riggins: You have an excellent memory, I’m impressed.

Burney: Well you know you just think about the various people that served on the board.

Riggins: What about, going back, I’m sorry I forgot about this, but going back, a ways did you ever know President Randall?

Burney: Very briefly. I knew who he was, I was introduced to him, but I never had an occasion to get very close to him.

Riggins: Yeah, you were mostly out of town during his tenure.

Burney: I was mostly gone during that time. My dealings were with Dr. Wagoner.

Riggins: Sounds like it.

Burney: See Dr. Wagoner at Wake Forest College, I knew them there when we were both students.

Riggins: Oh really.

Burney: That’s how far back our relationship went.

Riggins: Was he from this area?

Burney: No, Dr. Wagoner was from northeastern North Carolina in a rural area. See Dr. Wagoner went to Wake Forest College. From there, he went to the university to get his Master’s and doctorate degree. Then he went up to Elizabeth City and was the superintendent of schools and New Hanover County hired him away from there. He came here and did such a good job, that’s when they made him the president of Wilmington College. I knew him well at Wake Forest when we were students. I had no idea we’d end up meeting down here.

Riggins: After he was superintendent, was Haywood Bellamy superintendent?

Burney: I think so.

Riggins: He did a lot of work, you must know his wife also, Mary.

Burney: We went to high school together. You know my brother said that Mary Bellamy got him out of high school Spanish and got his son out of college Spanish out here, he said if it wasn’t for Mary Bellamy, neither one of them would have ever graduated from college.

Riggins: Yeah, some people have a real hard time with languages. Everything else is easy. She’s a wonderful lady. I had the pleasure to interview her with the same project.

Burney: I know when my high school class had a reunion, I had my brother with a video camera and Mary and Haywood came and he said here’s the lady that got me out of high school Spanish and my son out of college Spanish, God bless her.

Riggins: Your brother must be a lot younger.

Burney: My brother is eight years younger.

Riggins: That’s funny. She came and taught here and was a wonderful teacher. What about the Order of the Isaac Bear?

Burney: I was inducted into that maybe two years ago.

Riggins: I have a list with you on it.

Burney: Dr. Marshall Cruz sponsored me in that. I was very proud to be in it.

Riggins: Have you been going to the meeings?

Burney: I missed one and that was a daytime meeting that I had a conflict with and couldn’t go.

Riggins: I know Tyrell was involved with that too.

Burney: You have a medallion you wear around your string and if you don’t wear your medallion to the meeting, they fine you a dollar so you have to wear your medallion to the meetings. I was very proud to get that.

Riggins: And you get to see some people that you know.

Burney: It goes way back.

Riggins: Have you had speakers at the meeting?

Burney: The last speaker we had as I remember was one of the students that went to the original Wilmington College, I’ll remember his name in a minute, told us what went on, former County Commissioner.

Riggins: I think I’ve heard of him, but I can’t remember his name either. So you must know Dorothy Marshall very well.

Burney: Oh gosh, I knew her husband Jesse. Her husband was employed at the shirt factory. I knew her from way back and she’s in the Order of Isaac Bear. Last time I saw her was at the meeting.

Riggins: She’s done a lot for the university.

Burney: She sure has.

Riggins: It’s great to hear these stories. I think we’ve covered a lot, quite a bit of time. As soon as I stop, I’ll forget something. Any other thoughts about what you’ve been doing recently? We see you at the university.

Burney: Well I’ve been going through all my papers and things and have been donating everything to the library here.

Riggins: We appreciate that so much. You’ve been doing that awhile. You must know Sue Cody? She was the interim director before Sherman. I think she got some gifts from you, some books, things like that. You’ve been giving us a good number of things, participating in interviews about World War II as well as this.

Burney: I was interviewed about the practice of law. Was I interviewed about World War II? I don’t remember. I know the state came down and interviewed me about World War II, but I don’t think the college has ever interviewed me about World War II. They may have, I don’t remember.

Riggins: I was trying to remember myself.

Burney: I know they did about the practice of law.

Riggins: In fact, I have a letter for you based on that. It looks like you’ve gotten some communication with Dr. Leutze recently where he announced the appointment of Mary Gorto. What about Tyrell? This is someone you must have known.

Burney: He knows where all the bricks are out here. I worked with him very closely, a good man, I hope he stays with the university forever because he knows a lot of the history out here. He can help a lot of eo with a lot of things because he’s got a good memory and he knows the history of everything that’s happened ever since he’s been here.

Riggins: Some people say he’s the historian of the university.

Burney: I think I agree with them. I hope you interview him.

Riggins: Oh I’d like to. He’s certainly kind of busy right now, but he’s on the list.

Burney: Get him for sure.

Riggins: Yeah definitely. Do you remember any stories with him in particular?

Burney: I knew he was in Desert Storm. He was in the honorary reserves. He was called into active duty.

Riggins: I didn't know that.

Burney: He was a master sergeant. I remember telling him, I said, “Ty, if there was anything I could to help him or his family while he was gone.” I don’t think he went overseas, but he was up in New Jersey doing work for the Army. I think he’s now retired from the reserves. You might interview him about that because he was called back to active duty during Desert Storm.

Riggins: What are some of the other professors you’ve known? You mentioned Adrian Hurst.

Burney: Dr. Lee Johnson, very close to him.

Riggins: He’s in political science. How did you get to know him?

Burney: Just know him. Dr. Albert Coates I think and Dr. Johnson came to the house with him.

Riggins: What about some of the athletic directors? Have you gotten to know any of the coaches or athletic people?

Burney: I knew Bill Brooks, but not close.

Riggins: Marshall Cruz?

Burney: Marshall and I went to the same Sunday school class (laughter).

Riggins: Marshall is a good friend to us. He’s helped me since I’m new, helped me with history.

Burney: Well you know he wrote the book. Somebody should pick it up where he left off.

Riggins: Right, because he focused on Wilmington College which was a good thing to do at the time. You went to the same Sunday school. He’s doing really well.

Burney: He’s still in my Sunday school class.

Riggins: You still go to Sunday school?

Burney: Yes, we both do. We sure do. My father had taught that class. There were over a hundred in it. Of course they keep splitting up classes and back then all the men went to one class and the women to another. Now we’ve got 8 or 10 classes. I think we’ve got 12 of us left of the old codgers that still meet together. Marshall’s in that class. In fact, he taught that class for many years.

Riggins: He’s been a wonderful help to me.

Burney: He can give you the history. He’s been everything there is to be out here except for the chancellor.

Riggins: It’s true he’s had a lot of positions. Did you get to know some of the other people in administration?

Burney: I knew Paul Reynolds like I knew Marshall Cruz and Dr. Wagoner, Adrian Hurst, ____ Johnson and I’ve known various professors over the years. I got to know who they were and help them if necessary. Very close to Dr. Cahill. I saw you interviewing him the other day. He’s a good man.

Riggins: Because you were probably on the Board of Trustees when he was provost. He did a lot for the university.

Burney: He sure did. He was the candidate to be the new chancellor to take Dr. Wagoner’s place. He had a lot of support, but Leutze ended up with the votes. Cahill was a good man.

Riggins: Do you have an interest in the athletics going on? Do you ever attend athletic events?

Burney: I’m sorry, I don’t.

Riggins: That’s okay, I don’t either.

Burney: I played football in high school, started out playing football at Wake Forest. I just haven’t been active, I don’t know why, I just haven’t. I never did like basketball much and never did get involved in that even at Wake Forest. I played baseball and football, but never played basketball.

Riggins: I know you have an interest in art. You collect art and you’re busy now in retirement on your farm.

Burney: I sure am.

Riggins: How’s that going?

Burney: Well it’s wet right now (laughter). We’re getting ready to put in a crop. Talked to one of the men who supplies _____ and talked to a man last night that helps so it ever dries out, we’re going to get started.

Riggins: A crop of what?

Burney: Corn and sunflowers and wild turkeys. We have a lot of wild turkeys. They like to get into the sunflowers. Five of us put our land together 10 years ago. They put in nine wild turkeys. We don’t know how many we have now, but I’ve got three on my place. We protect them, very much so.

Riggins: Oh good. Thank you sir for your time and if we think of more things to talk about, I’m sure I’ll run into you.

Burney: We’ve been all over the world and back.

Riggins: It was, did you think of some things you haven’t thought of in a while.

Burney: You know, I’m trying to write a book. I started me a new chapter the other day called ruminations. I guess I’m trying to look in a mirror and look back. You think of a whole lot. I’ve written 113 things down on a yellow pad that I want to put in there. I’m not disciplined enough to be a good book writer because I get off on tangents.

Riggins: That’s okay though.

Burney: I started out and I named the book 34677555, that was my ____ number. I got so far from it and I started telling funny stories that I knew and things I remembered as a boy. I have a whole lot in there about World War II and the Army, my mother and my father. I need to get started on my wife. I haven’t started on her yet. So I find that you need a lot of discipline and I don’t have that discipline. I get off on too many tangents because I quit and don’t come back.

Riggins: Well I think it’s okay to get off on tangents on a first draft and then you can always work it down.

Burney: My wife is trying to get me to get an editor. In fact one person looked at it and said I need two books, one to publish and one for my family. I don’t think I’ll get it published. I think I’ll just get it bound up and give it to my grandchildren.

Riggins: That’s a good idea too, that’s admirable. You would be a good candidate, if anyone, to write your memoirs.

Burney: Well I’ve been active.

Riggins: And you hear very well too. A lot of people have trouble hearing me because I speak softly, but your hearing is good.

Burney: Well my wife says I need a hearing aid. I want you to call her up and tell her I don’t need a hearing aid. But every day she says why don’t you go get a hearing aid. Now she’s accusing me of hearing what I want to hear.

Riggins: Well that could be. Well thank you very much for your time. If we think of something else, we can set up another time.

Riggins: Good morning. Today is March 6, 2003. My name is Adina Lack. I’m here in the Helen Hagen Room in Special Collections and I’m interviewing John J. Burney for a second day. We want to talk about some things we didn't get to the first time. I’m very much looking forward to that.

Riggins: Would you care to start, is there something that came up?

Burney: One thing we didn't mention before, when I went to the Senate in 1967, I had some time to kill one day so I walked over to North Carolina State University’s campus. I thought it was the most hodgepodge looking thing I’d ever seen in my lifetime. I came back and went to work and got $25,000 for the advance planning of this campus here at UNCW.

I think the best money we ever spent was this $25,000 to do the planning for this campus. You can look at it today and look at the integrity of this campus and tell me that $25,000 really paid off for planning this campus.

Riggins: So the $25,000 went to a planning…

Burney: The advanced planning for this campus. I think that’s one of the best things I did that year.

Riggins: And everybody says that about North Carolina State, that it’s not very pretty.

Burney: Oh, it’s a horrible place. I walked out there and said we had to do something because down home I didn't want our campus to ever look like that. Another thing in the building over where Dr. Leutze’s office is up on the second floor, the Board of Trustees used to meet in that room. There was a long, long table in there. It was an original dining room table that came from Airlie Gardens that the corporate family gave to this university.

The reason I know so much about that, I was at Wake Forest College and my mother and my Aunt Bertha who was a Corbett came up and I went with her to a place called Rich’s in Raleigh. She had this table made in Raleigh, North Carolina for Airlie. When Harsh Corbett, her son, became a member of the Board of Trustees, he and his brother Whitey gave this table to the university here.

Also inside of the old Airlie mansion I call it was a lot of hand-painted wallpaper. When they tore down the wallpaper in the original Airlie Mansion, this wallpaper was rolled up and given to the university here. Whatever happened to that wallpaper, I do not know, but it’s very valuable.

Also in that Airlie house was the original staircase that came from Sir Walter Raleigh’s home in England. I believe that was given to the university also. What’s happened to that, I do not know.

Riggins: How was that arranged?

Burney: The Corbett boys, Harsh, became the trustee of Wilmington College. They gave these various objects to the university. Where they are, what happened to them, I do not know, but somebody should run it down. One of the worst things that ever happened here was Dr. Sigmund Bear gave a portrait of his forebearer, Isaac Bear who the Bear Building is named for here on the campus. He gave him this portrait and one day he was out here and found it in a closet. Picked it up, the portrait and left with it.

Riggins: Isaac Bear, was he a trustee then?

Burney: No, Isaac Bear school is where I went to grade school and that’s where Wilmington College started out in the Isaac Bear Building on Market Street between 12th and 13th. It’s a shame that we lost that portrait because he could have been a great benefactor to this university.

Riggins: He found it himself in a closet.

Burney: Found it himself or he got somebody to find it for him.

Riggins: Was he still alive when the Isaac Bear Building was named?

Burney: No, I started there in the first grade.

Riggins: No, I mean there’s a Bear Hall on campus here.

Burney: That’s who it was named after and if you look on the inside cover of Marshall Cruz’ book he wrote on the university, there’s a picture of the Isaac Bear School the day it was dedicated. You see what it looked like in Dr. M. Cruz’ book.

Riggins: What a landmark it was.

Burney: I think we ought to mention Dr. Hubert Eaton. Dr. Eaton was a black doctor who brought the suits to integrate the schools in New Hanover County. As I recall, school integration, his daughter went to Chestnut Street School. Dr. Eaton is very controversial, he ran for the Board of Education many times and was never elected. I used to do some legal work for him.

I asked him one day why he went to his office at 5: 00 every evening and closed between 2 and 5. He said that his people, the poor people, couldn’t afford to get off of work to go to the doctor. So he had those late office hours from 5:00 to 11:00 so that his people could get medical treatment. Dr. Eaton was named as a trustee here at the university and became chairman of the Board of Trustees. I succeeded him as chairman.

Before he died, he was suffering from Alzheimer’s. I went with Dr. Wagoner to his home to talk about his papers to give to the university. When we went there, Dr. Eaton’s driver’s license had been taken away from him and all he wanted to talk to me about was getting his driver’s license back.

Riggins: He wanted you to help him legally?

Burney: I understand that the papers are here at the university, but you have to have permission from the family to look at those papers. We had a ceremony one time and named a portion of the building after Dr. Eaton and his family appeared. When Dr. Eaton died, his funeral was at _____ Mortuary in Whiteville. Dr. Wagoner gave the eulogy for Dr. Eaton at his funeral.

I always remember Dr. Eaton presiding and when someone made a motion and it was seconded, before he called for a vote he’d always say is there unreadiness. I never forgot that, I always looked at Dr. Eaton when he said is there any unreadiness. I think what he was saying was there any further discussion or did anybody have a gripe about this motion, if you’ve got any unreadiness you better say it now.

Riggins: That was his way of asking.

Burney: When some of the unrest on the campus was starting, Dr. Wagoner always used Dr. Eaton to calm it down and he did calm down unrest on this campus. I knew Dr. Eaton, I represented him. When I ran for the senate, the black newspaper here, the Wilmington Journal was dead against me because I supported _____ and they were throwing cartoons in the paper of me and Dr. Eaton. Dr. Eaton came out for me and that took a lot of nerve because well I won by a landslide. I think it was 200 some votes, but I think Dr. Eaton got me about 60 votes, it helped. He was a good man, valuable to the university.

Riggins: He supported you in your senate race even though he didn't always agree with you.

Burney: He didn't agree with me, but he supported me.

Riggins: And you didn't always agree with him.

Burney: No, because we were friends. I enjoyed getting to know Dr. Eaton.

Riggins: I understand, I don’t know if you remember this but when the new campus was built, I think Dr. Eaton and Dr. Wagoner just had an agreement that it would be integrated and Dr. Eaton said he wouldn’t sue as long as that went along as planned.

Burney: I cannot confirm that, but I know Dr. Eaton and Dr. Wagoner were very close. They were good friends. I think that started when Dr. Eaton was superintendent of the New Hanover County schools. Of course Dr. Wagoner was going through all these law suits with Dr. Eaton on the other side so I assume they began to respect each other. They may not have agreed with each other, but they came to respect each other.

Riggins: They got to know each other well. He’s definitely very well respected now in memory. When he was living, you said he was quite controversial.

Burney: Oh, he was very controversial.

Riggins: Integration was controversial.

Burney: Well those were controversial times. After Brown vs. the Board of Education everything became controversial as far as the schools were concerned. Many of the black people I talked to, see they closed Williston High School, the black high school. Well they loved their school and they didn't want it closed so you had two thoughts. Some people wanted integration, some people didn't.

I understand from reading in the paper that Williston still has an alumni association. They still meet and they’re very close and very committed about it.

Riggins: That’s true. Can you talk a little about when you represented Dr. Eaton? You said you asked him why he picked you as his legal representation.

Burney: Well when Dr. Eaton came to me, I told him I didn't know whether I wanted to represent him or not. He was very controversial and I didn't agree with what he was trying to do to integrate the schools. I just didn't know. So one night I was talking to my wife about it. I said, “You know if my children got sick and I couldn’t find another doctor, Dr. Eaton wouldn’t turn me down. I’m going to call him in the morning and tell him I’ll represent him” and I did.

That’s where he and I became very close friends. One of the funniest things when I represented him, he associated a black lawyer here by the name of Robert Bond. Robert was a great person. He was one of the first black lawyers in New Hanover County. He was originally from Bertie County, but Robert drank a lot of liquor. When I was district solicitor, Robert would come to court sometimes and he’d have one or two drinks and I’d always get him out of the courtroom.

Dr. Eaton associated with Robert Bond I know to save face. One day we were in a conference and Robert had rented a building from Dr. Eaton for his law office. He hadn’t paid his rent in about six months. Dr. Eaton was on him about drinking and Robert turned to Dr. Eaton and said, “Now Hubert, you might tell me what to do between 9:00 and 5:00 when I’m on your time, but come 5:00, I’m going to do like I damn well please”. But Robert was a good man. He was well liked by all the lawyers, respected by the judges. He was just a good man.

Riggins: And he was an attorney in town.

Burney: In fact, he was originally from up at Bertie County. Judge Parker was the chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court who knew Robert as a young man. Every time I went to Raleigh, Judge Parker would always say “Say hi to Robert Bond for me”. Robert was a good man.

Riggins: That’s an interesting name. Do you care to talk a little about the case where you represented Dr. Eaton? Did the case go well?

Burney: Well Dr. Eaton was charged with murder. It involved an abortion. What I did, I got a court order to get various parts of the body from the deceased and carried them to Dr. Jeffrey Mann who was the chief medical examiner from the Commonwealth of Virginia. He examined these things and sent various parts to _____ chemist. The night before the trial, the ______ called Dr. Mann and told him there was nothing but broken down red blood cells and they _____ abortion came from. It completely cleared Dr. Eaton from the medical standpoint.

One of the interesting aspects of the trial, Dr. Mann was in my office on Sunday morning before the trial started and Dr. Lum was a local pathologist from Wilmington at James Walker Hospital. Dr. Mann said I must call Dr. Lum and tell him what I found. I said, “Doctor, please don’t do that. He’s the most egotistical man that ever lived. If you tell him what we found out, we’re going to die from it”. He said, “I must call him.”

He called Dr. Lum and as a result of that phone call when the trial started, Dr. Lum got Dr. Heperin, the chief medical examiner from New York City in here to testify. He got a pathologist from the University of Georgia to testify. He got one from the University of Tennesee to testify. After the judge entered the verdict of not guilty, Dr. Eaton and the pathologist went in the back of the court out in the hall and had a big fight verbally that none of them knew what they were looking at when they looked through a microscope.

It was a time in the land, but things went on by and things leveled off.

Riggins: It sounds like Dr. Eaton got a not guilty verdict. Did he practice medicine after that?

Burney: Continuously until he became where he couldn’t practice on account of his Alzheimer’s. He has a son here who’s a doctor, Hubert Eaton Jr.

Riggins: And he was quite a tennis player too, wasn’t he?

Burney: Dr. Eaton was. He trained Althea Gibson. Dr. Eaton lived on Orange Street between 14th and 15th. In back of his home, he had a tennis court and that’s where he trained Althea Gibson and that’s where he played his tennis. He kept her in his home, sent her to school and Dr. Eaton trained her.

Riggins: Some people want to try to restore the house or keep it as a historical…

Burney: That’s what I read in the paper.

Riggins: I don’t know how that’s going.

Burney: I remember the house well as a boy before Dr. Eaton ever bought it and he added on to it and put the tennis court in the back.

Riggins: So it’s an old house. He was chair of the Board of Trustees before you and then he remained on the Board of Trustees.

Burney: I think he rotated off when I became chairman. I have a picture of the Board of Trustees when Dr. Eaton was chairman. We all had our picture made and I assume the university has those pictures.

Riggins: We have pictures of the Board of Trustees in archives. I don’t know if we have all of them, but hopefully somebody at the university does.

Burney: I hope they have the names written down.

Riggins: You mentioned that there was some unrest on campus. I thought that this campus was always very peaceful.

Burney: Well I know there was some unrest but as I remember Dr. Wagoner had Dr. Eaton maybe put out the fires before they started.

Riggins: Right, speak to the students.

Burney: But he and Dr. Wagoner were close. Had to be for Dr. Wagoner to give the eulogy at his funeral.

Riggins: That was certainly an interesting time. Who else was interesting on the Board of Trustees? We talked a bit about Bennie Schwartz last week, we talked about Dr. Eaton.

Burney: Pete ____ who is now deceased was chairman of the board after me. He was chairman of the search committee when Dr. Leutze was elected. He was a very valuable member of the Board of Trustees. John Merrick was on the Board of Trustees. John is now, he worked for Congressman Charlie Rose. Probably Governor Easley’s the number one man in Raleigh. He’d be a good man to contact. I’m sure Dr. Leutze must know that. Mrs. ____, she’s now living in Rose Hill.

Going way back, Ashley Murphy from Atkinson, North Carolina. He’s been a member of the House. He and Addison Hewett were one of the driving forces in getting this university started or Wilmington College started I should say. Ashley Murphy was a very valuable man because he’d been in the legislature for a long time. Addison Hewett has been Speaker of the House of the House of Representatives. They worked tirelessly.

Down in the library is a portrait of Addison Hewett. I’m trying to think if there are other names. I might have written them down.

Riggins: Can you talk a bit about Mr. Walton? You mentioned Mr. Walton a little bit.

Burney: He succeeded Carl Dempsey who had been associate chair, I assume that’s the right word. They worked closely together. They were always on the ball. They did their research. Mr. Walton was the same way. Very reliable, a person you could count on. Very active in the Boy Scouts, very, very active. In fact I went to the national Boy Scouts jamboree in 1937 and I still have the newspapers.

I gave him all the stationery, books, he collected that. In fact I gave him a Boy Scout hat and some time later, I learned it was worth $75 (laughter). I think he’s been gone from the university now maybe three or four years. I haven’t seen Carl Dempsey since he retired. I hope he’s still alive. I just don’t know.

Riggins: And Mr. Walton was also vice-chancellor of business affairs.

Burney: They were very valuable to this university.

Riggins: Current vice-chairman of business affairs is Tim Jordan. You might know him too.

Burney: I’ve met him, yes.

Riggins: That’s an important job. You have to be on the ball and have vision.

Burney: Picking out architects and who’s going to do the new building. You get a lot of help from Raleigh and you’ve got good local architects. All the architects want a lot of money for the buildings.

Riggins: The School of Education is being built now and it’s really coming along.

Burney: Due to the bond issue that we passed. In fact, Colin Rowe told me the other day we’re adding on to the Burney Building.

Riggins: Yes, tell me about this, the Burney Building. That’s a building on campus named after somebody I know (laughter).

Burney: Well the Board of Trustees named this building after me. We had a dedication. In fact, I gave a tape here dedicating the building. They gave me a copy and I gave you all a copy so you have it here. A lot of people were there, my mother was there. My preacher gave the invocation. Dr. Wagoner acted as master of ceremonies let’s say. My granddaughter was about three years old. I’ve got a picture of her up on her daddy’s shoulders looking. Then they had a reception inside the building. It was a great day.

Riggins: What was it designed to be? It’s currently, it’s the John Burney Student Support Center.

Burney: Right, it was the student support center then. It was originally the infirmary, the bookstore. It’s been revamped since then. I didn't even know it was being added on to. I’ll ride by there today and see.

Riggins: I know the bookstore is in there.

Burney: Computers, all kinds of university logos, shirts, shorts, mascots, anything you want to buy.

Riggins: And that store has changed. They won a contract with Barnes & Noble, they’re operating it now.

Burney: I did not know that.

Riggins: It was a competitive contract and Barnes & Noble wanted to operate the bookstore and computer store. It has changed.

Burney: Everything changes.

Riggins: So it’s great that you have been supportive of the school. You didn't come here yourself…

Burney: I went to Wake Forest. I reckon Dr. Wagoner and Bill Friday got me interested in it so much.

Riggins: Two of your friends. They did a lot for the system. It was a great honor to have the building named after you. Were you surprised when you were informed of that?

Burney: I was very appreciative.

Riggins: It was in honor of your years of service to the university.

Burney: I gave you an annual that Dr. Wagoner gave me, the last seal from the university. Last week I gave you that. I had my picture in there, members of the General Assembly who helped us to get university status.

Riggins: I can’t remember if we mentioned last time, but just to make sure, did you know Ralph Brower at all?

Burney: I knew Dr. Brower. In fact he and I were sitting next to each other on a plane one time going somewhere, I forgot. We had a very interesting conversation.

Riggins: He was an interesting person.

Burney: He certainly was.

Riggins: He gave us all his books. He left his fortune basically to the university and also Will DeLoche did the same thing. Did you know Dr. DeLoche?

Burney: I didn't know him as well. I knew of him, but I didn't know him well. But with Dr. Brower, I was interested in marine science and he was interested in marine science. Mr. Adrian Hurst got me interested in it. He was a professor here. He was born and raised on Masonborough Sound. Not many days went by he didn't talk to you about marine science.

Riggins: He was a math professor.

Burney: He sure was. One of my cousins got a Master’s degree at East Carolina. She told me Adrian Hurst was the best math professor he had throughout her whole career. I thought that was a great compliment of Mr. Hurst.

Riggins: Oh yeah, he prepared her well. She continued on and did graduate work. She succeeded.

Burney: She said he was the best.

Riggins: How have you remained connected with the university?

Burney: Well I’m interested in the university. Dr. Leutze and I are friends. I invite him to my farm hunting.

Riggins: You guys go hunting together?

Burney: Oh yes.

Riggins: Is he a good hunter?

Burney: Pretty good, he’s a good shot and a good fisherman. I’ve been going through all my papers. Everything I think my children would throw away that the university might want, I give them to the university, it has some historical value. I gave them a picture this morning, what Wilmington looked like in 1953 from the air. They said they’d like to have it. My mother died and my brother and I invited the librarian here over to the house and gave various books which are now in the library out of my father’s and my mother’s collection.

Riggins: Was that Mr. Hugelae?

Burney: The present one. I’ve got about 200 books on North Carolina he’s got his eye on, but he hasn’t got those yet. In fact, I was rereading old Max Gardner, one of the great governors of North Carolina. He was very close to Roosevelt. They were governors at the same time. He went to Washington as a lawyer and ended up appointed as the ambassador to England by Truman and went to New York to go on a ship overseas and had a heart attack and died.

Probably one of the most astute politicians that North Carolina has ever known. His brother-in-law was Clyde ____ who became governor and they talked about the Shelby dynasty because ______ was from Shelby and became governor of North Carolina. They said they had a great political organization after Senator Simmons’ political organization was dismantled and Simmons was defeated because he didn't support the democratic ticket. Al Smith ran and they were against him in North Carolina because he was a Catholic.

Simmons was a great democrat but left the party. They didn't forgive him the next election. He was defeated for not having supported the democratic ticket. I’m trying to think. I read last night that old Max Gardner’s father was a confederate veteran, but he was also a doctor of medicine. He lost most of his land as a result of the war between the states. Came back and he practiced medicine.

Old Max had a letter framed that his father while a confederate veteran in the infantry wrote to his future wife, but I’m trying to think exactly what he said. “Ignorance is a lack of education because there’s poverty and it’s also the grandmother of crime”. That’s what he wrote. I think about everybody tried to advance education because this confederate veteran said that ignorance is the lack of education and the grandmother of crime. That’s an astute thing to say back in the early 1860’s. Max Gardner had that letter from his father to his mother framed.

Riggins: That was a guiding principle for him.

Burney: I’ll tell you if you read about politics, a senator from North Hampton County named W. H. S. McGwinn who became the judge of Superior Court, appointed. Mr. Edwin Gill who became state treasurer was old Max Gardner’s secretary. I used to talk to both of them about this because I was interested in it. When I received this book on Max Gardner, I got Edwin Gill to autograph it. I got Judge McGwinn to autograph it because he was one of the state senators who helped Gardner get his approval through and they were very close.

Also Mr. Lindsay Warren was very close to Max Gardner. Warren had been a congressman and became very high up in the Roosevelt administration. I served in the senate with his son. When I was wounded in World War II, I have a copy of a letter he wrote my father saying he understood that I was wounded and he hoped that I had made a quick recovery. I think he was comptroller general of the United States. He was originally from little Washington, North Carolina. They call it Washington City, we call it little Washington here.

Riggins: That’s Washington, North Carolina.

Burney: Yes, they say they were the first Washington and they were. Everybody in this part of North Carolina called it little Washington. The people from there called it Washington City.

Riggins: I’ve heard of it, but I didn't know it had those various names. In your retirement, you’ve been involved with some volunteer organizations. Can you talk a little about that?

Burney: Not too many. I go to my office about every Monday. My brother still goes down there and stays until 12:00. We sold all of our interest to our partner, Frank Jones. I spend most of my time on the farm. That’s a full time job. It keeps me active and moving about.

Riggins: That’s important. Thank you very much.

Burney: About ran out of things to say.

Riggins: Perhaps, I thank you for coming in and if I think of anything…

Burney: I’ll come back.

Riggins: I’d appreciate that, thank you Mr. Burney.

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