John Alton Burdine, teacher and university administrator, was born on February 9, 1905, in Smithville, Mississippi, the son of W. B. and Margie (Knight) Burdine. He moved to Texas as a youth with his parents. He graduated from the Paris, Texas, high school in 1921 and received B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Texas in 1926. Except for graduate study at Harvard University, where he received an M.A. degree in 1933 and a Ph.D. degree in 1939, and one year in Washington, D.C., he was a continuous resident of Texas.
Burdine was vice president of the University of Texas from 1941 to 1945, when he resigned in protest against the dismissal of Homer Price Rainey as university president. He resumed his career in the government department, only to return again to administrative functions when he became associate dean of the graduate school and acting dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 1957. He became dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 1958 while continuing to play a significant role in the university's graduate program. He served on a large number of committees concerned with various aspects of governmental change in the state. For a time he was a consultant to the administrator of the Federal Security Agency and served the United States Civil Service Commission and the United States Employment Service as a consultant. He held various committee assignments in the National Municipal League and the National Civil Service League. He assisted with the faculty fellowship program of the Fund for the Advancement of Education and was a member of the board of trustees of the College Entrance Examining Board. His activities within his own academic discipline were equally broad. He served as a vice president of the American Political Science Association, as an officer in several of its regional groups, and on committees of the Social Science Research Council. His many publications dealt with problems of administration at all levels of government.
Burdine married Marian Griffith in 1931, and they had one child. At the time of his death on September 15, 1967, he had been associated with the University of Texas for more than forty years. In 1968 the J. Alton Burdine Fund of the Arts and Sciences Foundation was established at the university as a memorial to him. In 1970 a new university building was named in his honor.
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John Alton Burdine Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
University Presidents and School Administrators
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
W. Gordon Whaley,
“Burdine, John Alton,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 25, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
November 1, 1994