George A. Burton
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George Aubrey Burton, Jr. (June 21, 1926 – June 10, 2014), was a Certified Public Accountant and the last elected municipal finance commissioner in Shreveport, Louisiana, a position he filled from 1971 to 1978. He was the first Republican since Reconstruction to have been elected to citywide office in Shreveport.
Early years, education, military
Burton was born in Texarkana, Arkansas, to George A. Burton, Sr. (1903–1980) and the former Theo Simmons (1908–1983). The Burtons thereafter resided in Alexandria in Central Louisiana and relocated to Shreveport in 1935. Burton's grandfather was a railroad employee, and his father was secretary-treasurer of Cahn Electric Company in Shreveport.
Burton attended Line Avenue Elementary School in Shreveport and graduated in 1941 at the age of fifteen from C.E. Byrd High School in Shreveport. He enlisted in the United States Navy and entered the Seabees at the age of sixteen. From 1943 to 1946, he served in the Pacific Theater of Operations of World War II. He was a life member of Disabled American Veterans. He obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from Centenary College, where he later taught accounting. He passed the C.P.A. examination in 1952.
After graduation from Centenary College, he was employed by the Operkuch, McGuirt, Watts and West accounting firm, of which he became a partner in 1953. However, he left the company in 1954 to begin his own firm. He was active in the American Institute Of CPA's, the Louisiana Society of CPA's, and the Association of Governmental Accountants.
A lifelong Republican, he ran unsuccessfully on November 8, 1966, for a seat on the Caddo Parish School Board, as did his fellow Republican George Despot, later the state party chairman. Her subsequently served on the Bond Issue and Rapid Learner study committees of the Caddo school board/
In September 1971, Shreveport Finance Commissioner Dwight E. Saur, a Democrat, died after serving less than a year of his second elected term. Burton won the special election to fill the remaining three years of the term at took office on December 14, 1971. Despite his overt Republicanism, Burton carved his niche with his Democratic colleagues. In 1974, Burton was reelected finance commissioner with 17,488 votes (68.8 percent) over Democrat (later Republican) David R. Carroll (1926-2011), a Mississippi native and a Caddo Parish police juror, received 7,938 ballots (31.2 percent). That year, Burton had the tacit support of Democratic Mayor Calhoun Allen, who won a second term. Under the commission form of government then in effect, changed in November 1978 to the mayor-council format, the mayor was technically the "commissioner of administration."
Running with Burton in 1974 was another Republican, Billy Guin, who waged his second campaign against Public Utilities Commissioner William "Bill" Collins and polled 43 percent of the vote. Collins resigned in 1977, and Guin won the seat in a special election. Guin was in effect only the second Republican in modern times to hold municipal office in Shreveport. Serving with Burton were Public Safety Commissioner George W. D'Artois and Public Works Commissioner Don Hathaway, both Democrats.
D'Artois was forced from office in a multi-faceted political scandal that surfaced in the spring of 1976. At one point before Attorney General William J. Guste was called to investigate, the five commissioners, including D'Artois, were conducting their own probe; "the city investigating itself," said the critics. Burton spoke out against the situation, which he found particularly alarming: "What's going on now is devastating to the city's image. I will favor anything that brings some final disposition to this matter. The city cannot move on anything until this is cleared up. We couldn't pull a public election right now endorsing motherhood."
From 1960 to 1980, Burton was chairman of the Caddo Parish Republican Executive Committee. From 1972 to 1980, he was secretary of the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee, a 144-member body which meets periodically in Baton Rouge. He was president of the Caddo Parish Board of Election Supervisors from 1978 to 2008.
Family and civic commitments
Burton married the former Joan (pronounced JO ANN) Cunningham (1928–2002), who lived in Amory, Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee, before her parents, William and Lucille Cunningham, relocated to Shreveport. The couple had two children, son George A. Burton, III (1948–2010), a poet in Shreveport, and his wife Melissa Fowle Burton, and daughter Sandra Burton "Sandy" Batten (born 1950), the wife of Rick Alan Batten (born 1954) of Maumelle near Little Rock, Arkansas. After Joan's death, Burton married Gloria Nell Brantley (1930-2013), a native of Homer, Louisiana, and the widow of Bernard Garvin (1927–1997) of Shreveport. They were no longer married at the time of her death.
Burton was a charter member of the Shreveport chapter of Sertoma International and was highly active in his younger years in the Jaycees as the Shreveport president, state vice-president, and a national director. He was a founding board member of East Ridge Country Club. He was a director and treasurer of the Shreveport Legal Aid Society. Burton was a member of the United Methodist Church.
He died in Little Rock eleven days before his 88th birthday. A memorial service was held on June 20, 2014 at Noel Memorial United Methodist Chuirch in Shreveport.
- John McWilliams Ford, Shreveport finance commissioner, 1930-1965.
- "George A. Burton, Jr. obituary". The Shreveport Times. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/shreveporttimes/obituary.aspx?n=george-a-burton&pid=171346250. Retrieved June 15, 2014.
- "Louisiana: Burton, George A.", Who's Who in American Politics, 2007-2008 (Marquis Who's Who: New Providence, New Jersey, 2007), p. 653
- The Shreveport Times, November 9, 1966
- "Sworn in as finance commissioner", The Shreveport Times, December 14, 1971
- "David R. Carroll obituary". Shreveport Times, July 27, 2011. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/shreveporttimes/obituary.aspx?n=david-r-carroll&pid=152770391. Retrieved August 4, 2011.
- Shreveport Journal, November 6, 1974
- Bill Keith (2009). The Commissioner: A True Story of Deceit, Dishonor, and Death. Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican Publishing Company. pp. 101. ISBN 9781-58980-655-9. https://books.google.com/books?id=NvpN1t9TMrgC&pg=PA81&lpg=PA81&dq=George+Wendell+D'Artois&source=bl&ots=FLoGsv9uIL&sig=M4vFHkw4ijLolZvKDlHRFDjmACg&hl=en&sa=X&ei=w0-XU5b6FuqH8AHr-YCoCQ&ved=0CEAQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=George%20Wendell%20D'Artois&f=false. Retrieved June 18, 2014.
- "Obituary of George A. Burton, III". Shreveport Times, March 9, 2010. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/shreveporttimes/obituary.aspx?n=george-a-burton&pid=140510758. Retrieved March 9, 2010.
- "Gloria Garvin Obituary". The Shreveport Times. July 20, 2013. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/shreveporttimes/obituary.aspx?pid=165926990. Retrieved June 15, 2014.