POPLARVILLE - The late Delos Hudson Burks was proud of his humble beginnings, calling himself “just a country boy.”
He graduated from Pearl River Junior College in 1946 and went on to serve with distinction in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II and in numerous public service positions until his death in 2008.
He is one of six alumni being inducted into the Pearl River Community College Lifetime Achievement Hall of Fame on April 17 at Southern Oaks House and Gardens in Hattiesburg. Other inductees are entertainer Jimmy Buffett, who will accept by video; retired banker James R. Ginn of Bay St. Louis, retired surveyor Francis Herrin of Hattiesburg, retired Secret Service agent Howell Purvis of Purvis and retired attorney Donnie Waits of Gulfport.
Delos Burk served as a charter member of the Pearl River Community College Development Foundation board and was always an active member of the Pearl River County Alumni Association and took great pride in supporting our students at the college,” said Ernie Lovell, executive director of the Development Foundation. “He carried that support for education on to Jackson through his time in the Legislature. He was a tremendous proponent of education.”
Burks’ granddaughter, State Sen. Angela Burks Hill of Picayune, will accept the award on behalf of the family.
Marsha Burks Megehee of Picayune remembers her father talking about his days at Pearl River and the college’s impact on his life.
“PRJC enabled country boys like him to obtain an education in his own community, providing a step up to him and those like him, to further their education at a four-year college,” she said. “He always believed the school was responsible for his later accomplishments in service to his state and country.”
Burks came to Pearl River after graduating from Industrial High School in rural Pearl River County and worked on the college farm for 10 cents an hour. After graduation, he taught high school math for several years before enlisting in the Army Air Corps. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in May 1942 and two days later married Melva Rester.
He and his crew flew 35 combat missions in B-26 Marauders and OA-10A Catalinas (PBYs) in the Pacific Theater, saving the lives of 172 downed pilots during sea rescues. Burks was promoted to major and left active duy in 1945 to pursue his bachelor’s degree at then-Mississippi Southern College.
He earned the law degree in 1954 while serving in the state Legislature from 1952-1960 and as a National VFW Press Officer. He also served on the state Building Commission, as an assistant attorney general and on the Ethics Commission. Burks continued his military service in the Mississippi Air National Guard, retiring as a major general.
He and his late wife had three children, seven grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren.
“He would be so proud that he is being honored at PRCC, a school he dearly loved and appreciated,” Megehee said.
Tickets for the gala are $100 and are available by calling 601 403-1191 through Friday, April 11.