Burke, Andrew Jackson (1813–1903)

By: Ann Dunphy Becker

Type: Biography

Published: December 14, 2001

Updated: March 11, 2021

A. J. Burke, pioneer Texas merchant and mayor of Houston, was born in Elkton, Tennessee, on October 10, 1813, the seventh child of Benjamin and Drucilla Burke. He was named by his father, who was a firm supporter of the Democratic party. He lived in Elkton until 1830, when Benjamin Burke died. After securing letters of introduction, A. J. went to Vicksburg, Mississippi. There he worked in a mercantile store for two years before being promoted to running his own store in Amsterdam, twenty miles away. Attracted to the new Republic of Texas, he moved to San Augustine in 1837. On September 26 of that year he married Eloise Lusk, the daughter of George Vance and Elizabeth (Lacey) Lusk, who had moved to Texas from Alabama in 1834. George Vance Lusk was the first judge of Shelby County.

Burke and his bride settled in Houston, where he became a successful businessman dealing in such products as dry goods, stationery, and boots and shoes, and in such services as fire insurance. In 1843 he joined the First Presbyterian Church, in which his brother James Burke was an officer and elder. The following year he joined the first Masonic lodge in Texas, Holland Lodge No. 1, where he served as a master Mason and treasurer. In 1844 he bought into partnership with Benjamin A. Shepherd in a mercantile firm, Shepherd and Burke. This partnership lasted ten years. The company did a considerable credit business. Interior merchants and planters paid up their accounts in the fall by sending in cotton and other produce to be sold on commission. This procedure involved interest charges and, in season, the simple banking function of holding money for the account of customers. In 1848 Burke bought an entire city block in downtown Houston for $300. In 1854 Shepherd sold his share of the business to Burke and went into banking. Burke then formed a partnership with Erastus Perkins. In 1870 he served as president of the Planters Mutual Insurance Company, with an office located in the Houston Insurance Building at the corner of Main and Franklin. In 1878 Burke was elected mayor of Houston. He served one term. As leader of a bankrupt city, he had the difficult task of cutting the city budget in half, to $50,000.

In 1845 Burke was elected an elder of the First Presbyterian Church. In 1868 he became a trustee of the church, of which E. H. Cushing and G. A. Forsgard were also trustees. In 1895 the church honored Burke for fifty years of service. He also served on the Board of Trustees of Austin College in Huntsville. His wife was active in the women's auxiliary of the First Presbyterian Church and counted as her friends Zerviah Noble, one of Houston's first schoolteachers. Mrs. Burke was a dedicated wife and mother who cared for the sick and wounded soldiers during the Civil War. The Burkes had thirteen children, but only six survived to adulthood. The oldest, Andrew Jackson "Jack" Burke, Jr., was a merchant, volunteer fireman, and member of the Firemen's Charitable Association of Houston in 1867. This organization furnished relief, doctors, medicine, and money to much of the state. It was the only organization of its kind in Texas and received numerous calls for help. Another of Burke's children, Matilda, married E. H. Cushing, the celebrated editor of the Houston Telegraph. Yet another, Frank S. Burke, lived in Galveston and was appointed as an attorney and counselor of the Supreme Court in 1886. Edmond L. Burke was a World War I veteran and a close friend of Edward M. House. Nettie Burke married George R. Bringhurst, son of surveyor George Hunter Bringhurst. Their male children were founding members of the Houston Light Guards. Eloise Burke died in 1886. A. J. Burke died on March 22, 1903; he and many of his descendents are buried in Glenwood Cemetery, Houston.

A Brief History of First Presbyterian Church, Houston, Texas, 1839–1939 (Houston: Wilson Stationery & Printing, 1939). O. F. Allen, The City of Houston from Wilderness to Wonder (Temple, Texas, 1936). History of Texas, together with a Biographical History of the Cities of Houston and Galveston (Chicago: Lewis, 1895). Chas D. Green, Fire Fighters of Houston 1838–1915 (Houston: Dealy-Adey Co., 1915). William Kirkland, Old Bank—New Bank: The First National Bank, Houston, 1866–1956 (Houston: Pacesetter Press, 1975). Harold L. Platt, City Building in the New South (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1983). Ellen Robbins Red, Early Days on the Bayou, 1838–1890: The Life and Letters of Horace Dickinson Taylor (Waco: Texian Press, 1986). Jesse Ziegler, Wave of the Gulf (San Antonio: Naylor, 1938).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Ann Dunphy Becker, “Burke, Andrew Jackson,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 19, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/burke-andrew-jackson.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

December 14, 2001
March 11, 2021

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: