Charles Gilbert Burr III (1944-2018)

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PAW Memorial. Charles died December 15, 2018, in Tampa, Florida, where he resided.

Charles came to Princeton from Avondale High School, in DeKalb County, Georgia, where he was student council president. At Princeton he was active in lightweight crew, Whig-Clio, Jamesburg Reformatory Program, Campus Fund Drive, Orange Key, and Undergraduate Council. Majoring in politics, he was a member of Colonial Club and roomed with Jim Linville and Hobie Birmingham ’67.

During his long and distinguished legal career Charles fought relentlessly for the protection of civil rights. For decades he worked closely with the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, which honored him with its Gwendolyn Sawyer Cherry Award and with a redistricting award for his efforts at increasing minority voter participation.

Charles leaves a son, Charlie Burr; three stepsons, James, Edward, and Tyson Chittenden; and a sister, Becky Stephens. The Class extends its condolences to them.


Additonal Comments from Classmates


His son Charlie adds in two separate communications (the second adds additional detail) to Jon Wiener:


Communication 1:

We are not having a memorial service. Soon, we will spread his ashes in the Mississippi River in Memphis in accordance with his wishes.


"Charles was divorced. He was previously married to Betsy Belz and later Norma Gene Lykes. He had one son, Charlie Burr, and three step-sons, James Chittenden, Edward Chittenden and Tyson Chittenden. He also leaves behind a loving sister, Becky Stephens, and her spouse, Margie Luck. His father, Charles Burr, was killed in the battle of Anzio, Italy (1944) several weeks after learning of the birth of his son.


"The decades-long work he did with the Florida NAACP was the most meaningful of his career. He dedicated his professional life to protecting civil rights of all people. The Florida State Conference of the NAACP honored him with its Gwendolyn Sawyer Cherry Award in 1992 and later a redistricting award in 2010 for his efforts to increase minority participation."


Communication 2:

"A central theme throughout Charles Burr’s life was helping protect people who faced unfair treatment. After James Meredith was shot in Mississippi in 1966, Charles participated in the March Against Fear with Martin Luther King Jr. and helped support logistics for the march. His multi-decade work for the Florida State Conference of the NAACP included challenges to voting rights abuses, asset forfeiture and unlawful discrimination in public places. His redistricting efforts for the NAACP helped level the playing field to elect more people of color to public office.  When local hotel operators sought to treat vacationing students of color differently than their white counterparts during spring break, Charles took them to court.  In 1993, the NAACP gave him its prestigious Gwendolyn Sawyer Cherry Memorial Award for "his demonstrated commitment to the right for freedom, justice and equality for all people."

"Charles was an adventurous and inquisitive traveler through life. He and his son Charlie shared a love of the west, its mountains and wild places. Years ago, the two of them summited Mt. Baker in Washington state (elevation 10,781). More recently, he would join Charlie’s family for camping and rafting on the Deschutes River near Maupin, Oregon, one of the most beautiful places around.  Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains were also a special place to him. He was drawn not just to the area’s beauty, but also its history – Chief Joseph was a long-time focus of interest and study.

"After remarrying, he raised three stepsons – James, Tyson and Edward Chittenden. On road trips, his love of historical markers and roadside oddities became the stuff of family legend. Charles “Griswold” Burr became his well-earned nickname.  

"Charles was a seeker. Later in life, he became deeply interested in Vipassana meditation and would visit the Northwest Vipassanna Center for intense, 10-day stretches. In Tampa, he was part of a small meditation group that included his friend Harry Chittenden, who was also the first husband of his second wife Norma Gene Lykes (and father to James, Tyson and Edward).

"He is survived by his sister Becky Stephens (and spouse Margie Luck), son Charlie Burr (and daughter-in-law Libby Upham), stepsons James Chittenden, Tyson Chittenden (and daughter-in-law Cristen Chittenden) and Edward Chittenden (and daughter-in-law Christen Chittenden). Grandkids include Marigny Burr, Shelby Burr, Jamie Freeman, Quinn Chittenden, Daniel Chittenden, Grace Chittenden, Olivia Brady, Josephine Chittenden and Paul Chittenden.

"Charles was predeceased by his parents Irma Camp Stephens, Rod Stephens (stepdad who raised him), and his father Charles G Burr, who was killed in the battle of Anzio in World War II several weeks after learning of the birth of his son."


Charles' interest in civil rights was noted in our senior year by PAW in the April 26, 1966 issue, p. 16: they quoted Charles as a senior talking about his summer as a Congressional intern working for Georgia Rep. Charles Weltner, the only member of the Georgia delegation to vote in favor of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – and the subject of Charles’s senior thesis


David Rubenstein writes: "Chuck sent me this picture [in the slide show below] from Paris in April of 2015, with a caption that was vintage Burr: 'Old man trying to look cool.' We had a long phone conversation about a week before he died. He knew he didn’t have much time, but his sense of humor was intact and just like old times he made everything sound interesting, even one’s own self. I was smiling for the next three days. Glad I got to hear his voice one more time."


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