Col. James C. Burris, Vietnam War veteran

November 21, 2008

Col. James Curtis Burris, a highly decorated career Army officer who fought in the Vietnam War, died Nov. 13 at his Havre de Grace home of cancers related to exposure to Agent Orange. He was 78.

Colonel Burris, who was born and raised in Tulsa, Okla., graduated from Tulsa Central High School in 1948.

Born into a military family, Colonel Burris was the grandson of two Civil War veterans and the son of a World War I veteran. He enlisted in the Army in 1948 and was selected to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., from which he graduated with a bachelor's degree in engineering in 1954.

Assigned to the infantry, he served in Korea and South and Central America. He completed three combat tours of duty in Vietnam during the 1960s, where he was a combat leader with the 101st Infantry Division. During his 25 years of service, Colonel Burris held numerous command assignments throughout the world.

He was decorated for valor and heroism during combat with two Bronze Stars, three Silver Stars, two Legions of Merit, a Distinguished Flying Cross and 39 Air Medals for combat assaults in Vietnam.

Other decorations included the Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Ranger Tab and Master Parachutist's Badge, plus numerous decorations from foreign governments.

After retiring from the Army, he was senior vice president of human relations for BSAF North America in Parsippany, N.J. He retired from BSAF in 1986 and established a human resources firm that was a consultant to the chemical industry.

In recent years, Colonel Burris worked as executive vice president with Boyden International, an executive search organization, as a consultant until he retired because of illness.

The former Lutherville resident, who had lived in Havre de Grace since 2006, was an avid reader of military history.

Colonel Burris was a communicant of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 232 St. Thomas Lane, Owings Mills, where a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Dec. 3.

A funeral service with full military honors will be held at 1 p.m. Feb. 5 at Arlington National Cemetery.

Surviving are his wife of 30 years, the former Margaret Contessa; four daughters, Elizabeth Harwood and Martha C. Berry, both of Chattanooga, Tenn., Cecilia Porter of Cummings, Ga., and Sarah Stone of Charleston, S.C.; a brother, Robert Burris of Aurora, Colo.; and nine grandchildren. An earlier marriage to Marion Grandy ended in divorce.

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