Thomas D. Burns, eminent trial lawyer and co-founding partner of Burns & Levinson LLP, passed away on February 27, 2016 of complications from cancer.
A native of Andover, he attended local schools including Phillips Academy, Brown University and Boston University Law School. Until his last days, he came into the office almost every day and he was an avid golfer, skier and traveler.
He is survived by his wife Marjorie Andrew Burns, and three of his four children: Wendy Conquest, of Hanover, NH; Lansing Burns, of Fairfield, CT; and Poppy (Lisa) Burns, of New York, NY; as well as four grandchildren and two great grandchildren. He is also survived by two of his three sisters, Anne Laskey and Constance Silverman. He was predeceased by his daughter Diane (DeDe) Longley; his sister, Cathleen Elmer; and his brothers Joseph Burns, Donald Burns, and John Horne Burns, author of the World War II novel The Gallery. He was the son of Joseph Lawrence Burns, a Boston lawyer, and Catherine Horne Burns.
Mr. Burns served in combat as a Naval officer in Europe and with the Russians in the Pacific during World War II. He returned to Boston to pursue a legal career, having passed the bar while on active duty as a Naval officer.
He began his law career as an associate at Friedman, Atherton, King & Turner in Boston. Early on he proved to be a skilled trial lawyer, and in his late twenties he was named a partner. There, he met his life-long friend, colleague and future Burns & Levinson founding partner Lawrence M. Levinson, who died in 2003. In 1960, they started Burns & Levinson. The firm grew rapidly. He became a renowned trial attorney, spending most of his days in the courthouse representing some of the country's large insurance companies, banks, auto manufacturers, corporations, law firms, newspapers, colleges and individuals in serious complex matters throughout New England. Today the firm has offices in Boston, Hingham, Andover, Waltham, Providence, and New York City, with more than a hundred and twenty lawyers.
The Thomas D. Burns Scholarship Fund was named in his honor in 2010 by his partners at Burns & Levinson and other Boston lawyers at Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education. "A giant in the profession for more than 60 years, his work has had a profound impact on the law and on so many who practice in it," said Salvatore Ricciardone, MCLE's Director of Philanthropy & Special Projects.
He trained and mentored some of Boston's most prominent trial lawyers such as Lawrence G. Cetrulo, Patrick Jones, Mark Furcolo, John A. Donovan, Jr., Thomas Peisch, Dennis Kelly, Kevin Kenneally and many others.
Mr. Burns graduated in 1943 from Boston University School of Law. In 1995 the school presented him with the Award for Distinguished Professional Services. Governor Sargent appointed him to the Judicial Council of the Commonwealth and twice offered him a seat on the Superior Court. Governor King appointed him Vice Chairman of the Massachusetts Judicial Nominating Commission.
He also served as Special Counsel to the Boston City Council during the busing controversy and was Chairman of the Judicial Selection Committee of the Boston and Massachusetts Bar Associations. As a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, he served as its Massachusetts State Chairman, on the Board of Regents and as National Treasurer. Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly named him one of the state's most influential lawyers of the past 25 years, and he appeared in The Best Lawyers in America for more than 20 years.
Mr. Burns was a trustee of the American Textile History Museum, a member of the Massachusetts Historical Society and on the Advisory Board of WGBH-TV. He was a member of The Country Club, Brookline; the North Andover Country Club; Coral Beach Club, Bermuda; Duxbury Yacht Club; BS Boston City Club and was formerly a member and governor of the Union Club of Boston and a member of DKE fraternity at Brown University. He served as a trustee of The Pike School in Andover and was a member of Phillips Andover Academy's Alumni Council and Development Board.
Memorial arrangements are under the direction of J. S. Waterman and Sons-Waring-Langone. His complete obituary can be viewed here. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Care Dimensions, 75 Sylvan Street, Suite B-102, Danvers, MA 01923.