It was a really big name for a man of such short stature.
My dad says his father was the "runt" of his family.
There was a reason for that.
Granddaddy Burris was born on 5 Oct 1890 on Isabell Creek in rural Pope County, Arkansas. He was the seventh of twelve children born to George Washington Burris, Sr. and Mary Mathilda Wharton.
The G W Burrises were farmers, like their parents before them. Education was important, but school was held in rural Pope County around planting and harvesting season. Children had to help with the crops.
Church was also important, and was much more than just a place you went to on Sunday. Granddaddy's father, George Sr., organized a Sunday School at what would later be the site of St. Joe Baptist Freewill Baptist Church.
From a newspaper article published on October 4, 2007, noting the 120th anniversary of the St Joe Freewill Baptist Church:In the year of 1885, George W. Burris organized a Sunday school under a bunchy top Gum Tree at St. Joe on Pea Ridge 10 miles north of Atkins. They had logs for seats and took School Readers to Sunday school. . . The Freewill Baptist Church was organized there in 1886. . . George W. Burris was the principal leader during his entire life.
The stories have varied over the years, but when Granddaddy was still a child, disease swept through the community. Whether it was scarlet or typhoid fever, it was highly contagious, and everyone who had it had to be quarantined from those who did not.
Granddaddy stayed in either the barn or a shed during the time he was ill. Meals were brought as far as the door, and he retrieved them from there. He recovered from the illness, but it left one leg shorter than the other, and I suspect, stunted his growth. He was the shortest man in his family, and walked with a limp for the rest of his life.George W Burris, Jr. about 1910
Family ties have always been important to my Burrises.
I cannot imagine how Granddaddy must have felt to lose his youngest sister, Ocie, in 1910. Then, three years later, he lost another little sister, Arkie,
in a horrible accident that also burned his brother, Ernest and his baby niece.
You expect your parents to die before you do - it's the natural order of things.
But not your little sisters.
Around the turn of the century, George Burris, Sr. became the Postmaster in Russellville. Granddaddy joined the Burris crew, and began work at the Russellville Post Office in 1910.
George Burris, Jr., William Homer Burris, Lee Jones, and
George W Burris, Sr., seated
By May 1920, Granddaddy was in Cristobal in the Panama Canal Zone as a postal clerk for services there. For a short time, he worked for an oil company in Columbia.
He re-entered the United States on 26 Mar 1922, docking at the Port of New Orleans. The man from Isabelle Creek was coming home.
Granddaddy continued to work for the Post Office. He transferred to Clark County, where he became the Assistant Postmaster at Arkadelphia in April 1923. His father, George W Burris, Sr., died on 10 Mar 1929. Although he stuck with the Post Office for 34 years until his retirement, he never got the coveted Postmaster appointment, because he would not change his political party affiliation from Republican to Democrat.
Some things just couldn't be compromised.
On 18 Nov 1929, Granddaddy married Louise Herrington,
and they started their own family in Clark County. His first child was born when he was 40 years old. He lived to see his first great-grandchild.
Sometimes, I am amazed at the changes my grandfather witnessed during his life. He grew up in an era where it took all day to take the crop to market in a wagon. Having a telephone in your home became commonplace during his lifetime. He witnessed the first automobiles, and commercial airplanes.
Maybe that was why he had such a hard time believing we had actually put a man on the moon. Were they really
walking on the moon, or was all that television footage just an incredible hoax of underwater shots instead?
Granddaddy always seemed to me to be happy with simple things. He enjoyed puttering around the yard, and going uptown to the pool hall to shoot the breeze with his buddies and catch up on news.
Grandma wasn't happy about the "pool hall" thing, and you could tell by the way she spat the answer to you when you asked, Grandma, where's Granddaddy?
I think simple things had been fine with him all his life, even during the Great Depression, which followed so closely on the heels of his father's death. That's what he told his mother in his New Year's Eve letter to her in 1931, as he tried to assure her that the next year would surely be better than the last.
I never picture Granddaddy without his pipe.
That photo was taken at the celebration of his 80th birthday. We didn't know then that we'd only get three more birthdays with him. He died on 7 May 1974, in Arkadelphia.
And oh, the secrets he could have told us...secrets that I am only discovering now.
See you on the other side, Granddaddy.