Troy Burris, 93, of Russellville, died Wednesday, March 18, 2015 in Russellville. The son of Dolan and Clemie Worsham Burris, he was born November 16, 1921 in London. A long time businessman and community leader, Troy founded Burris Office Machines in 1953, now Burris Inc. Office Products in Russellville.
Burris was raised on a farm in the Buttermilk Community, with his brother, Roy, and two sisters Ruth and Ruby. He graduated from Hector High School in 1939, and immediately joined the Arkansas National Guard, which was the only way that he could get the money to pay for his education at Arkansas Polytechnic College (ATU).
In 1942, while attending Arkansas Tech, Burris's National Guard unit, the 206th Coastal Artillery (Anti-Aircraft), Batteries D and F, which were stationed at Arkansas Tech, were activated and deployed to Dutch Harbor, which is located on Amaknak Island in Unalaska, Alaska, and is a part of the Aleutian Islands.
Burris and his company spent the next 11 months at Dutch Harbor. Assigned to a battery of long-range, 75-millimeter cannons, their job was to guard the Alaskan coastline from a possible Japanese attack. That possibility became a reality on June 3, 1942 with a Japanese air raid that consisted of torpedo bombers and Zero fighters.
In a June, 2013 interview with the Courier, Burris said he vividly remembered being strafed numerous times by Zero fighters. "One of those Zero fighters came down and started shooting its 40-millimeter cannons at the troops and anti-aircraft batteries," Burris said. "The Zero made a direct hit on one of the anti-aircraft machine gun placements, and the shrapnel killed the two soldiers that were manning the gun. The very next day, the Japanese returned. "They hit us hard," Burris shook his head. "From where we were, we could see the barracks flying up into the sky as bombs hit them." When the Japanese aerial assault finally ended, the harbor's oil tanks were left burning, its hospital all but demolished, and a troop ship was severely damaged. Burris remembers, what he recalled as the saddest day of his life. "I remember looking across the coast there, and seeing soldiers load 32 caskets into trucks".
The attack on Dutch Harbor forms an integral part of the history of the Arkansas National Guard's 39th Infantry Brigade's 1-206h Field Artillery Battalion, with Headquarters in Russellville.
The following is an excerpt from the Historical Notes of the Archives of the Arkansas National Guard: The 206th Coast Artillery's official induction notice, Executive Order No. 8618, was issued on 31 December 1940. Arkansas Polytechnic College in Russellville was singularly affected by the mobilization of the 206th. The college had two gun batteries, Battery D and Battery F. Among the ten officers and 271 enlisted men of the two units were 104 of the college's students.
The induction of the students caught the attention of Life magazine. The magazine sent Francis Miller, a staff photographer, to the campus to cover the story. The Life article, which included twelve photographs, noted that: One man out of every four (males)-104 all told--bade farewell to his Alma Mater in the Ozarks. Twenty-five members of the football squad departed. Every basketball letterman but one marched off. The entire track team, eleven of 14 student councilmen, and the president of the student body all were called away. Two officers and thirty-two enlisted men from Batteries D and F left on 14 January, by convoy. The 206th arrived at Fort Bliss on 17 January 1941, and underwent training through the end of July. The 206th received overseas travel orders for Dutch Harbor, Alaska, on 28 July, 1941.
The 206th came under enemy fire on 3 and 4 June 1942 when Dutch Harbor was raided by a task force which included the light aircraft carriers Ryujo and Junyo. On 4 June, far to the south, the United States Navy engaged the Japanese in the Battle of Midway. Military historians still debate whether these two light carriers could have altered the course of the Battle at Midway. The air raids on Dutch Harbor, in a sense, may have cost Japan the war. In late February 1944, the 206th was ordered back to the United States.
A decorated soldier, Troy received the Army Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, The Army of Occupation-Germany Medal and the World War II Victory Medal. He also qualified as a sharpshooter with the pistol and the M-1 Rifle.
Following his service during World War II, Troy and Marjorie Henderson were married on November 11, 1944. He was reactivated during the Korean War and served in Germany.
Following his Korean War service, Troy purchased the H.D. Coffee Supply store in downtown Russellville and started his own business, Burris Office Machines (now Burris Inc).
A member of the Arkansas Tech class of 1946, Troy loved and continued to serve his Alma Mater, as President of the Arkansas Tech Alumni Association in 1981-82, Chairman of Arkansas Tech Fund Drive in 1989, and as a member of Arkansas Tech Board of Trustees from 1986-1991. He was inducted into the Arkansas Tech Hall of Distinction in 1992.
Troy was the 1967 President of the Russellville Chamber of Commerce when the decision to build Arkansas Nuclear One was made. Troy told the Courier News, "All that was out there where the power plant is today was corn fields,". "The Chamber and other city leaders drove a big flatbed tractor/trailer into the middle of those fields to stand on and have a big welcoming ceremony to the company representatives who would be constructing the power plant."
He was honored as Russellville's Citizen of the Year in 1988. He also served on the Russellville Downtown Investment Corp from 1969-70 and 1979 and the Russellville Industrial Development Corporation in 1982. He was a member of the Board of Directors of KCAB Radio Station from 1969-1981 and the Arkansas Valley Savings & Loan from 1970-1984 and was a member of the Friendship Services Board of Directors.
Burris' service to the community and state included the following boards and commissions: Board member of the Housing Development Agency 1983-86 (appointed by Governor Bill Clinton); He was a member and chairman of the Arkansas Ethics Commission; Chairman of Bill Clinton's Campaign for Governor in Pope County in 1982, 1984 and 1986; Chairman of the Pope County Democratic Committee from 1988-92; State committeeman from 1992 to 2013.
Troy will be remembered for his influence on the history of our community, our state and our nation. While still working at the age of 91, Mr. Burris told his family, "I've seen a lot of struggles over the years, but I have tried to do what was right at every turn." Burris went on to say, "I'll never forget the boys that I served with in the Army. They are a big reason that I'm right here today."
He was a long time member of Rotary International, including the Russellville Noon Rotary Club and was a founding member of the Russellville Morning Rotary Club which honored him with the Paul Harris Fellow award in 1989. He also was proud of the fact that he had 52 years of perfect attendance in Rotary.
He was a member of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
He was preceded in death by his wife Margie Burris; his parents; brother, Roy Burris; sister, Ruth Burris.
Survivors include two daughters and sons-in-law, Vickie Stingley and husband Ed of Russellville, Troylynn McSpadden and husband Roy of Russellville; two grandchildren and their spouses, Stephanie Barker and husband Steve of Russellville, Ed McSpadden and wife Dixie of Russellville; six great grandchildren, Rhett Hale Barker, Meredith Grace Barker, Clara Lynn McSpadden, Chloie Elizabeth McSpadden, Anna Kay McSpadden, Mac Wetzel McSpadden all of Russellville; a sister, Ruby Curry of Russellville; and several nieces and nephews.
Funeral Service will be held at 10:00AM, Saturday, March 21, 2015 at Humphrey Chapel. Rev. Steve Moseley and Jock Davis will officiate. Burial will be at Rest Haven Memorial Park by Humphrey Funeral Service. Full military honors will be provided by the Arkansas National Guard's honors team, stationed at Fort Chaffee.
Active Pallbearers are members of the Arkansas National Guard honors team from Fort Chaffee. Honorary Pallbearers are Harvey Young, BJ Dunn, Bill Sorrells, Bob Hope, Ray Griffin, Steve Hughes, Johnnie Hamilton, Ed Williams, Bert Mullins, Joy Leapheart, Bill Eaton, John Laughinghouse, Bill and Katy Murdoch, members of the Pope County Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America, Current and former employees of Burris, Inc., and members of the Downtown Russellville Rotary Club.
The family will receive friends from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm, on Friday, at the funeral home.
Memorials may be made to Troy Burris Scholarship Endowment, Pope County Community Foundation, P. O. Box 663, Russellville, AR 72811.
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MAR 20. 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Humphrey Funeral Service
2801 West Main Street
Russellville, AR, US, 72801
MAR 21. 10:00 AM
Humphrey Funeral Service
2801 West Main Street
Russellville, AR, US, 72801