Lieutenant General, USAF
General Burke was born in Mobile, Alabama, on June 7, 1929. At age 17, he enlisted in the Navy, serving for two years as an aerial photographer. Thanks to the G.I. Bill, he then entered Auburn University, becoming the first member of his family to attend college.
At Auburn, he was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha social fraternity and served as president of the Inter-fraternity council, was selected for membership in Spades and Omicron Delta Kappa and was a co-founder of the Auburn chapter of the Arnold Air Society. Graduating in 1952, he was concurrently designated a distinguished graduate of the Air Force ROTC program and commissioned as a second lieutenant.
Subsequently, he completed pilot training and was awarded the commander's trophy as the outstanding graduate of his class. During his Air Force career he held a wide variety of challenging assignments including commander of two bombardment wings, senior planner of Strategic Air Command and Director of Air Force operational requirements. He rose rapidly in rank, becoming the first in his year group to receive a third star. He was also the first Air Force ROTC graduate to achieve that rank. To commemorate these accomplishments, Auburn University established the Burke scholarship which is awarded annually to the most outstanding Air Force ROTC cadet.
General Burke's final position was Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Research, Development and Acquisition where he was responsible for an annual budget of $38 billion and played a major role in shaping the Air Force of the future. In recognition of his achievements in this position, the Air Force created the Kelly Burke trophy, presented annually to the most outstanding young officer in the research, development and acquisition field.
During his Air Force career, General Burke logged some 8,000 flying hours—including nearly 800 combat hours—in a wide variety of aircraft including both experimental and foreign. He was awarded the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, the Legion of Merit, The Distinguished Flying Cross, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Bronze Star and the Air Medal with oak leaf clusters.
After retiring from the Air Force in 1982, he, along with long-time friends and colleagues, General Guy Hecker, and General (Astronaut) Tom Stafford, founded the firm of Stafford, Burke and Hecker, which quickly became a leader in the field of aerospace consulting. General Burke also served as a director of three New York Stock Exchange Corporations: the Singer Corporation, Flying Tigers Airline and Orbital Sciences Corporation.
Additionally, he served as a pro bono adviser to the White House Science Office, the National Research Council, the Defense Science Board, the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board and other scientific and academic groups. He was also a contributing editor to the Armed Forces Journal and Chairman of the editorial board of Aerospace America.
In addition to Auburn, General Burke is a graduate of George Washington University (MS), the Air Force Squadron Officers School, the Royal Air Force Staff College, the Naval War College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. He is cited in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in Science and Engineering, and Who's Who in the South and Southwest.
In 1993, General and Mrs. Denny Hosey Burke created the Burke Scholarship Endowment, which annually provides fifteen four-year college scholarships to needy students. For this and other charitable activities the Burkes were named as the "1995 Benefactors of the Year" for the state of Florida.