NO. 17363 • 11 September 1927 – 25 December 1982
Died 25 December 1982 in Charlotte, North Carolina, aged 55 years.
Interment: Fairlawn East, Matthews, North Carolina.
BURKE WHITEHURST LEE, JR. was born on 11 September 1927, in Montgomery, Alabama, the son of Burke Whitehurst and Ethel Mallox Lee. When Burke was two months old, his family moved to Jacksonville Beach, Florida, where he attended grammar and high schools. After graduation, he attended Marion Institute while seeking an appointment to West Point. He entered the Academy in July 1946, appointed by Senator Claude Pepper.
Throughout his cadet days, Burke was a member of Company E‑2. He established his academic credentials early by earning the stars of a distinguished cadet while a plebe and then repeated this achievement each year he was a cadet. In addition to holding academic and military rank, he was a member of the Cadet Chapel Choir.
While a cadet, Burke courted Elizabeth Dunn of Jacksonville, whom he had met at church just prior to leaving for the Academy. They were married on 1 July 1950, three weeks after graduation.
Their idyllic honeymoon was marred by news of the invasion of South Korea by Communist forces. At the conclusion of graduation leave, Lish drove with Burke to Camp Stoneman, California, where he embarked for duty in the Far East.
Burke's first troop assignment was with the 72nd Combat Engineer Company, assigned to the 5th Regimental Combat Team. He was involved in a variety of combat engineer assignments in support of the infantry regiment as it engaged in offensive and defensive operations in all types of terrain on the Korean Peninsula. Upon returning from Korea, he served as a tactical officer in the Engineer Officer Candidate School at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
Burke's abilities were recognized in a number of troop assignments, including command of an engineer company in Germany and duty with the Tactical Department at USMA from 1959 to 1962. He brought the same keen intellect to his military assignments that had made him a top student. His seriousness was tempered by a sense of humor and compassion that made him sensitive to the needs of his fellow soldiers.
Burke served in Vietnam as the Senior Military Advisor to the Vietnamese III Corps. Vietnamese combat and construction engineer units benefitted from his experience as they worked on bridge, road, and airfield construction assignments throughout the Corps area. Upon returning from Vietnam, his knowledge of field conditions was utilized in force development duty on the Army Staff. Assignments of increasing responsibility, which included Assistant Commandant of Cadets at USMA and Chief of Staff of the 3rd Infantry Division in Germany, followed.
Upon retirement from active duty in 1975, Burke was employed by the Charles T. Main engineering firm in Boston. Once again, his professional ability and character resulted in assignments of increasing responsibility. He became a Vice President of the firm in 1978 and, in 1980, was appointed Manager of the Southern District in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Burke's sudden death came as a shock to his friends in the military and civilian community as well as his family because he had enjoyed good health prior to a fatal heart attack on Christmas Day 1982.
In addition to work as an engineer, he had continued his lifelong practice of lay activities in his church. In every aspect of his life ‑ professional, religious, or familial, his ideals and contributions were substantial and devoted to others.
Burke and Lish were blessed with a loving family of four children. Patti (Mrs. Russell Richardson), Burke III, Peggy (Mrs. Stephen Maye), and Nancy (Mrs. Robb Chapin) were as devoted to their father as he was to them. Their five grandchildren are Katie Lee, Kelli, and Megan Richardson and Elizabeth and Carolyn Maye. An enduring memory is his commitment to their happiness.
His friends, too, were warmed by the affection which came from the heart of this true gentleman. In him we have an inspiring example of a soldier dedicated to the ideals of our Alma Mater. His country was blessed by his service. We were blessed by his friendship.