All of Waxahachie mourns the loss of civic and industry leader Thomas Edward Burleson who passed away Monday at the age of 75.
Burleson was honorably discharged from military service in 1962 and he returned to Waxahachie to join the family firm of T.W. Burleson and Son Inc., where he worked 49 years as the third generation in his family to produce and pack honey. During that time, he served as president of the National Honey Packers and Dealers and president of the American Honey Institute. As CEO of Burleson’s Honey, he led the industry by pioneering plastic, non-drip containers for honey. Billed as the southwest’s oldest and largest honey packer, Burleson Honey was established in 1907.
Known for his zest for life and sense of humor, Burleson is remembered by several friends and business associates.
Bruce Boynton, CEO of the National Honey Board based in Firestone, Colo., expressed his sadness in the passing of Burleson.
“I am saddened and shocked to hear the news about Ed – my friendship with him goes back about two years when I was CFO of the Honey Board and he was one of the very first board members,” Boynton said saying he saw Burleson at industry meetings. “When I was in Waxahachie on a business trip, Tom Ed took me to lunch. He was warm, honest and I enjoyed working with him, always making it a point to say ‘hello’ to him and his wife when we were at meetings.”
Few people worked any closer with Burleson than Jim Phillips, owner of KBEC radio station, who worked at Burleson Honey from 1994-2011.
“Tom Ed’s family has been a bedrock of the community for many years – with Burleson Honey being in operation since 1907,” Phillips said. “He was also a very faithful member of his church – First Baptist Church.”
Phillips said Burleson cared deeply about his community and encouraged all his employees to take an active part in civic affairs.
“He was very interested in the Boy Scouts, and not many people realize this, but several months ago just before the scouts were going to go on a camping trip, their trailer, loaded with their camping gear was stolen. Tom Ed bought a new trailer for the Boy Scout troop,” Phillips recalled.
Phillips noted how supportive Burleson was of him when he was contemplating running for a seat on the WISD school board.
“I asked him if he would support me if I were to run for the school board, and he not only said ‘yes’ but he allowed me to take some personal time off to pursue it,” said Phillips.
Community leader Bobby Dyess had a friendship with Burleson that dated back to childhood.
“We were friends from grade school on through high school. I knew his grandfather, father and I’ve known him nearly his entire life,” said Dyess. “He’s been a fine friend, and really, he’s been an interesting person.”
Dyess said Burleson wasn’t particularly interested in the honey business when he was younger, but his interests were more toward mechanics.
“Tom Ed loved to tear an engine down and rebuild it – he really enjoyed cars,” said Dyess, noting that one of their favorite high school pastimes was to load Burleson’s 1950 Ford convertible with boys and “tool” around town. “We really enjoyed life when we were in high school.”
With a chuckle, Dyess admitted to a few isolated incidents of boyhood shenanigans.
“He and I were probably in more than one event when we were young in which we evaded certain people who (disapproved) of the speed limit being broken,” he wryly said.
Dyess added that during his college years, he found the love of his life, Nan, daughter of the Rev. T. Hollis Epton, who was pastor of First Baptist Church from 1949-1961.
Burleson served as a deacon in First Baptist Church, and became a member of the WISD school board in 1970.
“He was on the board during that transition period when the schools de-segregated,” Dyess said. “He was serving on the Baylor Hospital Board when he came to me and told me that someone suggested that I be asked if I were interested in serving on the board. I asked him how often they met and he told me, ‘about once a month,’ so I said ‘yes.’”
Today, Dyess serves as chairman of the Baylor Hospital board.
“He was one of my favorite friends,” Dyess said. “He was a real solid citizen of Waxahachie – he will truly be missed.”
Waxahachie mayor N.B. “Buck” Jordan expressed his sentiments about Burleson.
“Tom Ed is a carryover of what the Burleson family has meant to this community through the years,” said the mayor. “He worked untiringly at helping others and serving his community in so many ways – this is a big loss for Waxahachie.”
Visitation will be from 6-8 p.m. Thursday at Wayne Boze Funeral Home and funeral services are set for 10:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 23 at First Baptist Church with interment at Waxahachie City Cemetery.
Contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org or 469-517-1450.