William Jennings (Bill) Burris, Grand Master of Masons in Texas during 1951, was born near Kemp, Kaufman County, Texas, on July 7, 1900, the son of John Quincy Adams Burris and Alma Harrell Burris.
The Grand Master attended the public schools at Kemp. He enlisted and served in the U. S. Navy in World War I from 1918 to 1919. He attended the University of Texas from 1922 to 1926.
On July 31, 1926, Brother Burris married Miss Marian Ross of Marshall, Texas. Since December 2, 1929, they have maintained their home at McAllen, in the Lower Rio Grand Valley of Texas, and are both devout members of the Methodist Church. They have one son, John Edward Burris, who is a Master Mason, and two daughters, Mrs. Albert Lee Green and Maryanna Burris.
Brother Burris has always been a loyal supporter of and tremendously interested in the welfare of our Texas Public Schools. From 1938 until 1947 he rendered outstanding service as a member of the Board of Trustees of the McAllen Independent School District.
Since establishing his residence in McAllen, Brother Burris has been engaged in the Textile Maintenance Industries (laundry and dry cleaning) in which field of business he has enjoyed notable success, while at the same time taking an active and prominent part in the civic affairs of his community and county.
The Grand Master was made a Master Mason in Kemp Lodge No. 528 on November 25, 1922. While a student at the University of Texas, he affiliated with University Lodge No. 1190, at Austin, Texas, on June 15, 1924. After moving to the Rio Grande Valley, he affiliated with McAllen Lodge No. 1110 on January 19, 1932.
Brother Burris served several years as Secretary of McAllen Lodge and served as Worshipful Master of the Lodge in 1937-1938. He served as District Deputy Grand Master of the 40th Masonic District under the then Grand Master, Brother Leo Hart, from December, 1939, to December, 1940. In 1942, Brother Burris was appointed Grand Marshal of the Grand Lodge of Texas. In addition, he has served on several Grand Lodge Committees, including By-Laws, Foreign Correspondence, Finance, and the Committee on Work. In December, 1947, he was elected chairman of the Committee on Work.
In December, 1948, Brother Burris was elected Right Worshipful Grand Junior Warden. By reason of the death, in 1949, of R…W.’.Gabe P. Allen, the then Grand Senior Warden, Brother Burris was advanced in December, 1949, from Grand Junior Warden to Deputy Grand Master. In December. 1950, he was elected and installed as Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Texas and served until December, 1951.
The Grand Master is a member of Hidalgo Chapter No. 434, Hidalgo Council No. 353 and Hidalgo Commandery No. 94, all of which are located at Edinburg, Texas. He is a member of the San Antonio Consistory of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction of the United States, a member of Alzafar Temple, A. A. O. N. M. S., of San Antonio, and a member of St. Timothy’s Conclave No. 65, Order of the Red Cross of Constantine.
From 1940 until 1950, Brother Burris was the representative of the Grand Lodge of Arizona, and since 1950, has been the representative of the York Grand Lodge of Mexico, F. & A. M., near the Grand Lodge of Texas.
Few men in Texas have been called to the East who have served longer, more assiduously or more faithfully than Grand Master Burris. His activities, through the, years, have brought to him, not only a large personal acquaintanceship with his Masonic Brethren, but a peculiar knowledge and keen insight into the numerous and difficult problems daily confronting the officers of our more than 900 Lodges.
In the Grand Master’s report of his stewardship to the Grand Lodge, Brother Burns reported a year of activity that has never been surpassed by any preceding Grand Master. In reviewing his report, the Committee on Grand Officers’ Reports paid him the following tribute:
“Grand Master has been a busy man-50,000 miles has he traveled during the past twelve months-roughly, 1000 miles each week-in his endeavors to awaken us to the crying need for a re-dedication of ourselves to those principles of morality, decency and ethics, laid down by our Founding Fathers.
“Running through his address, as a scarlet thread, is the thought that if we are to keep the priceless jewels of Freedom, Liberty and Equality before the Law, handed down by our fathers, we must have courage-moral and political -to place principles above men, and stand firm and steadfast, in support of them. This we would applaud.”
Among all the many achievements attained by our Grand Master, during the past year, there is one outstanding accomplishment which, alone, would place this good Brother in the Halls of Masonic immortality and would carve his name and record in the Archives of Texas Masonry for all time. For some time prior to his elevation as Grand Master, Brother Burris made an extensive search and study for some outstanding and unusual program to guide his activities-and to chart a course during his year as Grand Master.
Brother Burris was not interested in formulating a Masonic program in a strict, narrow or dogmatic sense-one that would expire with his term of office-and soon be forgotten. Rather, he had in mind the need for a long range program-one that could and would be continued through the years with increased effectiveness-a program not limited or restricted to the members of our Order, but one that would invite the active participation and support of all loyal and patriotic citizens, groups and organizations-both public and private, under the leadership of our great Fraternity.
It was only natural that in his quest for such a program, the thoughts of our Grand Master should turn to the Public Schools of Texas-and to the necessity for a greater understanding by and co-operation and support of, all our people in this, the most fundamental-the most fragile and preciousand, undoubtedly, the most important of all our public institutions.
And so, the first Public Schools Week program in Texas was conceived and inaugurated during the week of March 5 to 10, 1951. The instantaneous and tremendous success of this project is a tribute to the ingenuity and farsightedness, as well as the unusual human qualities of our Grand Master.
The Masons of Texas are justly proud of the accomplishments of Grand Master Burris and are confident that, though his term of office has ended, he will continue to render to the Craft the same unselfish devotion and service he has rendered in the past. He retires from the office of Grand Master with the plaudits and the love of the Masons of Texas. We know that in the future, he will be as active as in the past, and that it will always be his privilege to serve Masonry-and to serve well.