Burnett, Thomas R. (1842–1916)

By: R. L. Roberts

Type: Biography

Published: November 1, 1994

Updated: October 22, 2020

Thomas R. Burnett, author and newspaper publisher, was born on January 23, 1842, to Joseph Burnett and Mary Young in Marion, Tennessee. He was taken to Fannin County, Texas, by 1850, and attended Plum Grove Academy nearby. During the Civil War he served for four years in the Confederate Army in Polignac's Brigade, Texas Cavalry. He wrote a collection of short stories and poems during the war called The Confederate Rhymes. He later gave every member of his brigade a copy of the book. After the war Burnett became a journalist and established the Bonham News and Ladonia Enterprise. He was also associated with the Denton Monitor and the Paris Press. As a master at repartee and sharp retort, he was known as a racy editor. After conversion to the Church of Christ in 1875, Burnett began the Christian Messenger in Bonham in 1876. From this date he traveled extensively in North and Central Texas in the interest of his paper, preaching, selling books, and occasionally debating. From September 1876 to September 1888 he kept a journal of numerous trips, during which he averaged three sermons a week. In 1888 he moved to Dallas and continued his paper until 1894, when it was merged with the Gospel Advocate, to which Burnett contributed a column called "Burnett's Budget" until 1898, when he began another publication in Dallas called Burnett's Budget and published until his death. Only a few issues of the Budget and the Messenger are extant. In his writings Burnett often combined controversy and good humor. Among his published works were a religious dialog and several volumes of religious poetry, including one collection titled Doctrinal Poetry. Burnett was married and had at least five children. He died on June 26, 1916, in Dallas, and was buried in Oak Cliff Cemetery.

Thomas R. Burnett Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Dallas Morning News, June 27, 1916.

  • Journalism
  • Newspapers
  • Publishers and Executives
  • Religion
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Dramatists and Novelists
  • Fiction
  • Poets
  • Church Of Christ
  • Military
  • Confederate Military
  • Regimental and Staff Officers
  • Soldiers
Time Periods:
  • Antebellum Texas
  • Civil War
  • Reconstruction
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Progressive Era
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

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

R. L. Roberts, “Burnett, Thomas R.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 18, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/burnett-thomas-r.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994
October 22, 2020

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: