Lloyd Leslie "Scooter" Burke (1924–1999)
Lloyd Leslie “Scooter” Burke is among the most-decorated Arkansans to have served in the military. He served in the U.S. Army for more than thirty years and fought in three wars. He was wounded several times during his career and, in addition to receiving the Bronze Star three times and the Purple Heart five times, he received both the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s two highest military honors.
Lloyd Burke was born in Tichnor (Arkansas County) on September 29, 1924, one of five children of A. D. and Betty Burke. In 1930, A. D. Burke was working as a foreman at a lumber mill in Clarendon (Monroe County). Lloyd Burke graduated from Stuttgart High School in 1942 and enrolled at Henderson State Teachers College, now Henderson State University, but withdrew to join the army in April 1943. He served as a sergeant in the combat engineers and spent World War II stationed in Italy.
After the war, he returned to school at Henderson, where he participated in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program, which is now named “Burke’s Raiders” in his memory. He was also a member of the Phi Sigma Epsilon fraternity. After graduation, Burke was commissioned a second lieutenant in June 1950. Five months later, he was in Korea as a company commander in the First Cavalry Division. It was in this role that he greatly distinguished himself as a soldier.
On October 28, 1951, thirty-five men from Burke’s company were attempting to dislodge 300 Chinese defenders from a place the U.S. military dubbed Hill 200. Burke was not with them because he was preparing to be sent home after thirteen months’ service. Although he had no orders or obligations to do so, he willingly left the safety of the command post where he was waiting and joined his battered company in the field. According to the citation for Burke’s Medal of Honor, he moved “to an exposed vantage point,” where “he threw several grenades at the bunkers, then, returning for an M1 rifle and adapter, he made a lone assault, wiping out the position and killing the crew.” His men were inspired by his actions and overran the position, only to be pinned down again. Burke secured a machine gun and “dashed through the impact area to an open knoll, set up his gun and poured a crippling fire into the ranks of the enemy, killing approximately 75. Although wounded, he ordered more ammunition, reloading and destroying 2 mortar emplacements and a machine gun position with his accurate fire. Cradling the weapon in his arms he then led his men forward, killing some 25 more of the retreating enemy and securing the objective.”
Burke returned home and continued his military service. Shortly after arriving in Vietnam as a battalion commander in the First Infantry Division in 1965, he was in a helicopter that was hit by an enemy grenade. His injuries removed him from combat duty. He spent the rest of his career as the army’s deputy chief and then chief liaison to the U.S. House of Representatives. After retiring from the military as a full colonel in 1978, he worked to create the Korean War Memorial. The memorial was dedicated by President Bill Clinton in 1995.
Burke was married twice. He and Virginia Fletcher Burke had three children; their marriage ended in divorce. His second wife, Maxine Hardin Burke, preceded him in death.
On June 1, 1999, Burke died at his home in Hot Springs (Garland County). He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. In 2004, a post office in Stuttgart (Arkansas County) was named for Colonel Burke.
For additional information:
Arlington National Cemetery Website: Lloyd L. “Scooter” Burke. Online at http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/llburke.htm (accessed March 16, 2022).
Goldstein, Richard. “Col. Lloyd Burke, Medal of Honor Winner, Dies at Age 74.” New York Times. June 7, 1999, p. 9B.
Ware, David. Beyond the Call of Duty: Arkansas Honors Its Veterans. Little Rock: Office of the Secretary of State, 2002.
Staff of the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture
Last Updated: 03/16/2022