James Lee Burton , 88, passed peacefully from this life on Thursday March 23, 2023. He was a beloved brother, brother-in-law, uncle, cousin and friend to many.
James was born on December 29, 1934 in Harlingen, TX to Lee and Rhea Lancaster Burton. He was the third of four children born while they lived in the Rio Grande Valley. His parents and 3 siblings moved from the Rio Grande Valley area to the Oak Cliff Community in Dallas when he was around 2 years old where he lived until the middle of 6th grade.. At that time the family again moved south and settled in Robstown TX. He was a valued member of the Robstown Cotton Picker Band winning many awards for his excellence playing the saxophone and he also assisted the band director with the job of drawing up the charts of all the marching formations. After graduating valedictorian at age 16, he attended Del Mar College and then finished his undergraduate work at the University of Texas earning a bachelor and masters degree in Music education and music theory. He taught music at TCU and played bassoon in the Fort Worth symphony for some years before going on to the prestigious Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York where he earned his PhD in musical arts. He was an Assistant professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder and later became a tenured professor at the University of Georgia. James was a member of many symphony orchestras through the years, some of them included the Houston Symphony Orchestra, the Ft. Worth symphony and Ft. Worth Opera, and the Sante Fe Opera Orchestra. One of his final positions in the music arena was at the Honolulu Symphony where he was the Head Librarian for the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra. While in Honolulu he was involved in the Big Brothers program and mentored at risk boys. He retired from the music industry and did various jobs in the Austin area before moving closer to family in Corpus Christi around 2007. James was
also very artistic and liked to create various works of art with wood working projects, some of which have become family treasures. He also enjoyed adventures fishing at the cut with brothers-in-law, Cloyd Wheeler and Kelly Bickham, as well as walking the island of Oahu while living in Hawaii. His other great hobby was that of genealogy and he has provided the entire family with an enormous wealth of historical information.
When visiting with family, “Uncle Jim” was always one to pick up a niece or nephew and head over to the ice cream parlor to get a milk shake or some other parental-forbidden treat and then go play putt-putt golf. Great niece and nephews when visiting grandparents in Corpus Christi would often get to have “Uncle Jim” day where we could enjoy a meal together at Whataburger by the Bay followed by fun outings to bookstores and music stores.
Jim is preceded in death by parents, Lee and Rhea Burton; brother, Norris Burton; sister, Mona Burton Wheeler; nephew, John Bickham; niece, Deborah Bickham Bingham; nephew, Mitch Wheeler, and great nephew, Drew Bingham. Those left to remember him include his beloved sister, Velma Burton Bickham of Corpus Christi; nieces, Cindy Wheeler Low and husband, Dean of Fort Worth, Tami Wheeler Magallon and husband, Joe of Pearland, and Brenda Bickham Smith and husband, Ken of New York. He is also survived by many great, as well as many great-great nieces and nephews.
There will be a private family memorial service. The family requests any memorials gifts be made to a charity of your choice in Jim’s honor.