The first endowed chair in the College of Business was established in memory of Elmo James Burke, Jr. to honor his leadership and contributions to the promotion of education and research in the building industry. The chair was endowed by Mrs. Elmo James Burke, Jr. and friends and colleagues in the Greater San Antonio Builders Association and the National Association of Home Builders. Following is a tribute written to E. J. Burke, Jr.
TRIBUTE TO MY FRIEND, ELMO JAMES BURKE, JR.,
Elmo James Burke, Jr., was to me a great man, not so much because he attained great things, although he did, but more because of his feeling and concern for his family, employees, associates, fellow man and for the man in the street as well. This concern was not lightly felt. He expressed this attitude daily in his business activities and in his political and social concerns.
I remember back when Jim was 26 years old, he told me that he was going to retire when he was forty. I laughed. He almost did it, except it took him about three years longer than he expected because he had to work out a place for all of his people. In that period of time, his accomplishments were numerous. Although his father was a builder, Jim determined as a young man, he wanted to be a lawyer. But World War II, the Marine Corps and his father’s health led him to the family’s business, a job he tackled with gusto. For those of us old enough to remember the period after World War II, housing needs were great, lumber and materials were almost nonexistent and the problems for a young home builder were, to say the least, challenging. Nevertheless, Jim had a vision. In addition to wrestling with the problems of his own business, he also smoothed the way for the new local home builders association. In due course, he became the youngest home builder to serve as president of the local association and he went on to become president of both the Texas and the National Association of Home Builders.
While serving a major leadership role at all levels of the home building industry, Jim became the largest home builder in south central Texas and one of the largest in the state and nation. While much of his work was concentrated on the building of small homes for veterans, Jim also found the time to build six shopping centers to serve the homes that he built and, at the same time, constructed 1,000 apartment units, 300 of which were for minority housing. This was back in 1949-50 when little thought was given to the plight of minorities.
Jim’s work centered largely in the southside of San Antonio although he went “northside” once to build the 324-unit Sunset Ridge Apartments and the Sunset Ridge Shopping Center, and he devoted time to areas outside this city as well. With all this work, it is surprising that he found time for other things. But he did. For example, he was an accomplished pilot, flying his own plane for many years. He loved to fish and hunt and he loved motorcycles, dune buggies, and cars in general. He also served a term on the City Council, but that one term was enough. He had a heart condition and he said that serving on the Council made his chest hurt.
Of Jim’s many honors, one that stands out is his well-deserved induction into the National Association of Home Builders “Hall of Fame.”
Jim was a great guy. He is sorely missed especially by those who knew him best. I am glad he came my way.
*The late Mel Hughes was a San Antonio Home Builder and Attorney and past president of the Greater San Antonio Builders Association.