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George Burnham (1868-1939)

georgeburnhamGeorge Burnham, representative of the twentieth congressional district of California in Congress, covering Imperial and San Diego counties, was born in London, England, on December 28, 1868, the son of James and Maria Ann Drusilla (Steele) Burnham. The family came to America in 1881 and located in in Spring Valley in southwestern Minnesota.

George Burnham attended school in his native country, also in Minnesota, and began his business experience as a merchant’s clerk at eight dollars a month. In 1887, at the age of nineteen, he went into the retail shoe business. He associated with M.B. Hutchinson, under the firm name of Hutchinson and Burnham, at Jackson, Minnesota. On the retirement of Mr. Hutchinson, a brother of Mr. Burnham became a member of the firm and it was conducted under the style of Burnham Brothers.

Leaving Minnesota in 1901, Mr. Burnham took up real estate and ranching in the state of Washington. Two years later he came to San Diego and followed the real estate business for some fourteen years. In 1917, when the Southern Trust & Savings Bank and the Bank of Commerce and Trust Company were consolidated into the Southern Trust and Commerce Bank, Mr. Burnham became vice-president and trust officer of the new institution. In 1911, he joined the late A. G. Spalding in organizing the San Diego Securities Company, of which he became vice-president, remaining as such until he joined the Southern Trust and Commerce Bank, which latter is the predecessor of the present San Diego Branch of the Bank of America, with which Mr. Burnham was affiliated until May 1, 1932.

Mr. Burnham has had a wide variety of interests in San Diego, and has served as executive head of many important bodies, including the Chamber of Commerce, the San Diego Council, Boy Scouts of America, and Board of Trustees, San Diego Public Library. He was vice-president of the Panama-California Exposition of 1915-1916 and also vice-president of the 1935-36 Exposition. He has taken a prominent part in fraternal organizations, being a thirty-third degree Mason, and a Past Grand Commander of the Grand Commandery of Knight Templars of California. In 1909 he was a member of the Masonic delegation that took the silver trowel to the City of Mexico.

Mr. Burnham was elected as a Republican to the seventy-third Congress and re-elected to the seventy-fourth (March 4, 1933-January 3, 1937). His work in the legislative body has reflected credit to himself and to his district. He has been assiduous in looking after the interests of his constituency and numerous measures which have been passed, particularly along the lines of added naval expenditure for San Diego, have been due to his untiring efforts. In the forty-odd years of his business experience, Mr. Burnham has never neglected the calls of civic duty and responsibility, and when still a young man in Jackson, Minnesota, he served as secretary of the Board of Education and as a member of the City Council. He also served one term as president of the Board of Education at National City.

[He was a member of the Honorary Commercial Commission to China in 1910; member of the San Diego Library Commission 1926-1932 and of the San Diego Scientific Library 1926-1932.]

Mr. Burnham was married on October 1, 1890, to Miss Neva May Ashley, who is now deceased. On December 25, 1932, he married Mrs. Florence Kennett Dupee, who has taken an active part in San Diego county philanthropy. He has six living children by his first marriage: Harold A., Percy E., Helen E., Laurence M., Virginia J., and Ben Burnham.

[above adapted from Heilbron, Carl. History of San Diego County v.2: Biography. San Diego: San Diego Press Club, 1936. (pages 221-222)]

George Burnham died in San Diego on June 28, 1939. Interment was in Greenwood Cathedral Mausoleum, Greenwood Memorial Park.

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