NORT AUGUSTA -- A man who adopted North Augusta as his hometown nearly 50 years ago was named its Citizen of the Year for 1998 on Thursday night.
Bill Burriss' credentials as a volunteer reach back almost as many years as he has lived in the city he has called home since 1951, said Nate Wolfe, himself a recipient of the award.
"His community service started almost immediately upon arrival in North Augusta," Mr. Wolfe said in presenting the North Augusta Chamber of Commerce's most prestigious award at its annual meeting.
"Having three children, he got involved with the school system in the Hammond Hills PTA and helped start the North Augusta High School Band Boosters Club," he said. So it has been throughout the years. Even today, the 80-year-old veteran of World War II remains active in the life of his town. As a volunteer with Seniors and Lawmen Together, he works as bailiff of the Municipal Court and a clerk at the North Augusta Activities Center.
The Savannah River Plant retiree also devoted a large portion of his time off to First Baptist Church of North Augusta. Usher, deacon, Sunday school teacher and choir member, Mr. Burriss also took his spiritual service to Africa and the Caribbean. He helped build a Baptist Conference Center in Tanzania and went with a volunteer group to rebuild homes in Summerville and Charleston after Hurricane Hugo.
It is for his work with the American Legion, beginning with Post 71 in North Augusta, that he has achieved most recognition. After stints as chaplain and adjutant, Mr. Burriss served as post commander for four years, then as district commander and afterward as a member of the state executive committee. He has been named Legionnaire of the Year and Chef de Gare of "40 & 8," a related organization for members of the American Legion named for the boxcars used to transport troops during World War I. In 1996, he was named Voyageur, the highest honor the South Carolina 40 & 8 can give.
Mr. Burriss joins his late wife, Barbara, as a recipient of the chamber's Citizen of the Year Award. "Do you know the song Wind Beneath My Wings?" Mr. Wolfe asked. "Well, for 49 years it was Bill and Barbara, working to make their world a better place to live. Hard to tell which one was the `wind,' wasn't it?"