James Wesley Burnett, known by everyone as “Bud” passed away Sunday, July 15th, 2018 surrounded by his family. He was 91 years old.
Bud was born in the front bedroom of an East Tennessee farmhouse on October 5, 1926 to the late Lloyd Thomas Burnett and Rural Grace (Roberts) Burnett. He was the third of seven children. He grew up in Talbott where his father was a local businessman.
Much of Bud’s early life was spent working with his siblings and father in their local poultry business. In the early days, at age 15, Bud would source live chickens in East Tennessee and haul them twice a week to Brooklyn, New York. This was in the days before refrigeration, which Bud referred to as one of the greatest advances in modern history.
Bud left high school and enlisted in the United States Navy at age 17 to serve his country during World War II. During the War he served on a Landing Craft Infantry Ship. A proud member of the Greatest Generation, Bud loved and served his country well. After leaving basic training on a trip from New Orleans to Virginia, the vessel’s chef suffered from sea sickness and could not continue. Since Bud’s mother had insisted on him learning to cook at a young age, he was promoted quickly to petty officer first class and head of the ships galley. Throughout his life he had a love for the art of cooking and he routinely shared it with his family and friends.
While home on leave during the War, Bud met Mary Nell Murray, a beautiful young woman who was attending Lincoln Memorial University. After a three-year courtship, Bud and Mary Nell married on October 15, 1947. Bud and Mary Nell or “Nelly” as he called her, enjoyed over 70 years of marriage which blessed them with three daughters: Jamie, Anne, and Becky. Last fall they celebrated their anniversary surrounded by family while Bud honored her with an anniversary band. They declared that a perfect marriage is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on one another.
After the War, Bud returned home to Morristown where he continued to build the family poultry enterprise. The changes brought on as a result of the War and developments in technology gave Bud an opportunity for economic growth through the expansion of Burnett Poultry Company. Advancements in refrigeration and automation allowed the Company to shift to a vertically integrated model where they built their first major processing plant on Morris Boulevard in Morristown. This capital investment coincided with the construction and acquisition of feed mills and a hatchery which allowed the Company to supply baby chicks and feed to its local growers. He often said he had the opportunity to participate in and witness the creation of an industry. In the early 60’s, the growing family business saw the opportunity to acquire an additional processing plant in Jamestown, Tennessee. With the purchase of a feed mill in 1968, Bud and Mary Nell moved their family to Jamestown.
Bud was an industrious and dedicated entrepreneur. Throughout Burnett Poultry’s 51 year tenure, Bud was a visionary of the poultry business and he grew the company toward it. Although he never received any proper industrial training, he was self-taught in many areas including mechanics, refrigeration, and fabrication. Bud mentioned that throughout the evolution of the business he was constantly testing new automatic inventions to increase the plants productivity. Often times he said the inventions would not make it through a whole day before being removed. From their first local order of six dressed chickens in 1948 to its last week of production of 1.2 million chickens to global destinations, Burnett Poultry Company remained an industry leader until its sale to Koch Foods in 1999. In 2013, Bud received the honor of being the first inductee to the Tennessee Poultry Hall of Fame - an accomplishment of which he was very proud.
Pap-pa, as his family affectionately knew him, was the center of all the family’s laughter. His sense of humor and love for his family was evident in his passion to spend time and build relationships with the ones he loved. He was their biggest fan and provided emotional support and encouragement through their life journeys. Bud and Mary Nell were life long members of the Methodist Church. Along with his wife Mary Nell, Bud was an advocate of continuing education, hard work, and providing for your family. All Bud ever wanted said about his life was “he was a pretty good fella;“ however, he was so much more.
Left to honor Bud and remember his legacy is his three Daughters, Jamie McGuire (Bill) of Florence, Alabama, Anne Johnston of Cookeville, Tennessee, Becky Atkinson (Don) of Allardt, Tennessee.
Sandi Clark (Mark) Herndon of Chattanooga, Tennessee, Jimi Joe Simpson of Cookeville, Tennessee, Andrea Clark (Teddy) Lockerby of Cleveland, Tennessee, Heather Johnston (Kevin) Carico of Cookeville, Tennessee, Emily Atkinson (Matt) Curtis of Cookeville, Tennessee, Tyler (Tara) Atkinson of Cookeville, Tennessee.
Lindsey Herndon, Madison Herndon, Joseph Simpson, James Simpson, Clark Lockerby, Camden Lockerby, Anneston Carico, Ally Carico
Hunter Grace Simpson, Hoyt Simpson, and Houston Simpson
The family will greet friends on Wednesday, July 18, 2018 from 4:00 to 7:00 pm at Jennings Funeral Home in Jamestown. An additional visitation will be held on Thursday, July 19, 2018 from 1:00 to 3:00 eastern time at Farrar Funeral Home in Jefferson City, Tennessee. A private graveside service and burial will follow at 4pm eastern in Jernigan Cemetery in Morristown, Tennessee.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Holston United Methodist Home for Children, Manna House Ministries of Jamestown, or Ronald McDonald House of Nashville. Memorials may be mailed to Jennings Funeral Home, P.O. Box 765 Jamestown, TN 38556.