Dedidated to the People of Burke, Then and Now

Thanks for visiting my Burke web site. I am the author of this site, Lee Murrah.

I grew up in and around Burke, and I attended Burke School form 1953-1961. During my Burke days I was known as "Macka Lee", but now for simplicity I use just "Lee". My father Earvin Elroy Murrah was a tenant cotton farmer on several rental properties when I was very young, and and at various times we lived on farms near Burke owned by Miss Ina McCall, Sallie Treadwell Pigford, Mrs. I. D. Fairchild, and Uncle Bob Weisinger, all either Burke residents or having Burke connections. Later after my father gave up cotton farming, he and my mother bought a farm northwest of Burke formerly owned by my grandfather Frank John Johnson, where he continued to raise cattle as a sideline. They also bought a tract of adjacent land from Owen Rose.

My roots go deep in Burke. My 3rd great grandfather Thomas H. W. Forsythe lived at Alabama Creek not far southwest of Burke in Trinity County. His grandson William D. (Will) Forsythe, a lay minister, crossed into Angelina County in the early 20th Century and lived near Ryan Chapel for a time before moving on to Lufkin. Will Forsythe married Sarah Landrum, whose father Maston Landrum came to the Ryan Chapel area from Jones County, Mississippi shortly after the Civil War. Sarah's mother was Mary Jane Johnson, who was the daughter of Patrick Johnson and Mary Vianna (Vinie) Ashworth Johnson. Both Maston and Mary Jane are buried at Ryan Chapel Cemetery. Patrick Johnson was a cattleman who moved to Southwest Angelina County in the late 1840s, and who lost his life at Lovelady in a cattle drive accident. Vinie was the daughter of James J. and Mary (Polly) Perkins Ashworth, who were also in the cattle business and came to Southwest Angelina County in the late 1840s and were probably among the first settlers in the area that came to be known as Burke. In 1870 they lived only two residences away from Isaac and John Ryan, founders of Ryan Chapel Methodist Church.

My great-grandparents, Samuel B. and Henrietta Wilson Murrah, moved to Diboll from Walker County in the early 20th Century, probably to work in the sawmills. Their son Virgil married Hester Forsythe, daughter of Will and Sarah Landrum Forsythe.

My great-great grandparents, William M. (Bill) and Elizabeth (Bettie) Johnson Johnson, moved to Angelina County around 1900 from Clarke County, Mississippi where they had apparently known the McCartys, McCalls, and Arringtons before they moved to Burke. When I was in first and second grade, I lived with my parents in an old farmhouse southeast of Burke owned by Sallie Pigford, sister to Roy Treadwell. Years later I learned that my great-great grandparents, Bill and Bettie Johnson, had lived in the same house many years before. Bill and Bettie are buried at Ryan Chapel Cemetery.

Bill and Bettie's daughter Emma Johnson Brown married Arthur Arrington after his first wife died, and they lived in the "Jake Lee house" adjacent Burke School. Emma is also buried at Ryan Chapel Cemetery. Emma's sister Arzie grew up in Burke with Maddin Spivey, whose son Dan became one of Lufkin's most prominent doctors.

Emma's son Frank Johnson married Florence Largent who grew up just north of Hurricane Creek near Lufkin, but they lived on a farm northwest of Burke most of their lives. Both are buried at Ryan Chapel Cemetery. Frank and Florence's daugthter Ina Gertrude, who was named for family friend, Miss Ina McCall, married Elroy Murrah, son of Virgil and Hester Murrah. Both Elroy and Gertrude, my parents, attended Burke School in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Both my mother and I had Miss Tennie Havard as our first grade teacher.

I was lucky to have parents, especially my mother, who told me early that I was not going to be an impoverished farmer and that I was going to get what she and my father did not have, an education--neither completed high school. Even though Burke was a "country school", I was lucky to have several fine teachers, including Abbie Travis who taught me to love words and Jim Travis who gave me a great start in math. After graduating from Lukfin High School, I obtained degrees in electrical engineering and law from the University of Texas at Austin. After I went to college in Austin, I left Burke other than to work for a several summers and to visit my parents, but I have never forgotten my home town. I have had a 30 year career as a corporate patent attorney in Texas, Iowa and Michigan.

I live in Troy, Michigan, a northern suburb or Detroit, with My wonderful wife Cec (short for Cecilia) and I are retired and live at Riverside, Texas near Huntsville on Lake Livingston.

I have two daughters, who are both graduates of Emory University in Atlanta. One is now studying for an MBA at Georgia Tech, and the other is a high school Latin and English teacher in Austin. In a sense both share the legacy of Burke School.

Though I have traveled far from Burke in my life and have enjoyed many successes, I will always remember Miss Ina, Uncle Bob, Miss Tennie, Mr and Mrs. Travis, and the other fine people of Burke. Through my life and my career, I have found that my greatest strength came from what I learned growing up at Burke, and Burke will always be a part of me wherever I am. So I say "Thanks" to Burke and all its fine people. This web site is dedicated to you.

Lee Murrah
Troy, MI