Major James Willis Burks

Biography of Major James Willis Burks

prepared by E. C. Knight

Major Burks, born March 27, 1877, a Democrat, is the son of Capt. Robert L. Burks, a Confederate Soldier and a grandson of Samuel Burks, a Revolutionary War Soldier. Capt. Robert L. Burks, father of Major Burks entered the Confederate Service in Rutherford County, TN, in 1864, - Wheeler's Cavalry, Company "E" 4th Tenn. Reg; was in the battle of Saltsville, VA, as well as all battles fought from Atlanta to Savannah, GA. His last battle was at Bentonville, NC; was mustered out May 9, 1865 at Washington, GA; was a member of Gen. Dibrell's Division at the time of surrender, but was in Colonel McLemore's command at time of discharge; moved to Overton County, 1878, where he began the practice of medicine; continued to practice for many years, then moved to Texas where he remained for about three years; returned to Livingston where he now [at the time this was written - no date given] resides; is a Member of the Christian Church; is an ideal Southern gentleman, affable, pleasant and one among the best loved citizens in this Section.

Major Burks' mother was Miss Eliza Jakes of Bedford County, TN, having married Dr. R. L. Burks July 18, 1872. Major Burks has one sister, Mrs. Ida Francis Breeding, born October 20, 1881 and one brother, Robert Ray Burks, born September 7, 1884.

Major Burks obtained his education, completing his Literary course at Livingston Academy, Tennessee; took a business course at Draughon's Business College, Nashville, TN; then employed by the Fourth Nationa Bank at Nashville a number of years; was Assistant Secretary of Chamber of Commerce, Nashville, TN; moved from Nashville to Little Rock, AR where he was Secretary, and in complete charge of the Chamber of Commerce for four years; from there he moved to Toledo, OH; in business at Toledo for about three years; returned to Nashville; engaged in business for two years; returned to Livingston, and entered the Wholesale and Retail Drug business, with his father, under the name of "Burks Drug Company," succeeding to this business, and remained in active charge until 1915. His brother Robert Ray Burks is one of the leading business men of Knoxville, TN engaged in Automobiles, Supplies and Accessories; his sister, Mrs. Breeding is the wife of Doctor W. M. Breeding, a prominent physician, resides in Livingston, TN, all successful in business affairs, and leading citizens.

Major James Willis Burks enlisted in Company "A" 1st Reg. N.G. [National Guard] State of TN May 27,1997, and answered his first call in April 1898, in the Spanish-American War; served as Private, Corporal, Sergaent and 2nd Lieut. in Companies A, C, and H; N.G. State of Tennessee; was discharged by mustering out of his Reg. Nov. 30, 1899; was in actual service fourteen months in the Philippines, Philippine Insurrection; on account of faithful service, personal acts of Bravery, and other deserving merits was awarded and received Congressional Medal No. 4655; was commissioned 2nd Lieut. at Manilla, Oct. 3, 1899; served as 1st Lieut. N.G.S.T. during the period of 1904-1905; was promoted to Captaincy Ark, N.G. 1908 and served until 1909; was again promoted and made Captain of Separate Company N.G.S.T. Sept. 11, 1915; again promoted and elected Captain, Company "M" 1st Reg. N.G.S.T. Jan. 18, 1917, he having organized said Company; was drafted with Company "M" into Federal Service June 30, 1917; was sent to the Border at Eagle Pass, Texas; was in active service during the trouble between Mexico and United States; resigned from that position on Jan. 17, 1918, returned home, but soon organized Company "C" 2nd TN N.G. when he was made Major thereof, and assigned to 1st Bat. 2nd TN and drafted into actual service, Aug. 4, 1918, leaving his Drug Business at Livingston in charge of his father, and was ordered to Camp Sevier, SC where he was maje Major, 1st Tr. Bat. 55 Depot Brigade, and was transferred to Army Troops, and then assigned to 55th Pioneer Inf., Camp Wadsworth, SC and was ordered overseas in command of 2100 men and 30 officers on the Transport Koenig de Netherlander; arrived at Brest, France, in Sept. 1918; was then transferred to 327th Inf. 82nd Division, ans was assigned as Major, 3rd Bat. where he served until the Armistice was signed; then was ordered to Hospital #10, Prauth Haute Marne on Nov. 29, 1918; was then sent to Blois, France, for physical examination, and on account of his long continued hard service, under continued exposure, resulting in disability, was discharged at Camp Dix, on Sept. 17, 1919, returning to Livingston, to his family, where he resumed his business, as Manager of the Burks Drug Company, and continued in the business for two years, remaining with his family during that period of time.

Major Burks was married to Miss Linnie Mai Adkins of Newbern, TN; has two children, a girl, age 14 years, named Mary Francis, and a boy age 12 years, named J. Willis, Jr. for his father. In 1920, Major Burks closed out his Drug Business in Livingston; moved to Waverly, TN, where he now resides with is wife and family.

Major Burks is possessed of that rare ability which renders him liked by all, especially the young men. He has a quality of command, firmness and determination, which was fully shown by the fact that when he undertook to organize a Company of Soldiers, the mention of the fact, brought to his surrounding every young man who personally knew him, yet, at the same time he was kind, lovable, and affectionate to all the boys under him. He looked after their interests. To illustrate his relation with his soldier boys, be it said, that when any of his boys happened to any trouble they would remark, "We are under Major Burks, and he will take care of us."


According to the July 1916 National Guard Muster Roll, James W. Burks, at the time age 39, was 5'8", with a fair complexion, brown eyes, and brown hair.

An abstract of his service record, form TSLA RG 36, states:

Burks, James W.
Officer, U.S. Army
residence: Livingston, TN
born: Beechgrove, TN, March 27, 1877
Drafted into Fed. Svc. 8/5/17, as Major, Inf. NG
Service: 2nd Inf. TN NG (118th Inf); 55th Pion Inf.; 327th Inf. to discharge
Stationed: Livingston, TN; Camp Sevier, SC; Camp Wadsworth, SC; France
Overseas: September 14, 1918 to January 5, 1919
Discharge: January 17, 1919