Prof. Rufus Burton Fletcher, Jr., J.D., MBA of Valdosta, Georgia, was born in Ocala, Florida, on December 25, 1950. He was raised in McAlpin, Florida, and later lived in Lake City, Florida, Pensacola, Florida, and Fullerton, California. After that, he was a long-time resident of Torrance, California, before relocating to Valdosta, Georgia, in 2004.
Burton has been known by several professional names and nicknames during his long and distinguished career. While his preferred name is Burton, many chose such endearing names as Rufus, Burt, Brother Burt, Brother Burton, Fletch, Fletcher, Corporal Fletcher, Veteran Fletcher, Teeth (because of his big smile), Mr. Fletcher, Burton Fletcher, Esq., Counselor, Dr. Burton, Dr. Fletcher, Professor Burton, and Professor Fletcher. He is also thrilled by the Southern tradition of addressing him as Mr. Rufus and Mr. Burton. He loves the congeniality of Southern culture.
Burton always did his best to be a wonderful son to his late, beloved parents, and he is a loving brother, uncle, and great-uncle to his cherished remaining family. He has been a notable example and inspiration to his loved ones through his career and community service and is treasured by his relatives. To Burton’s family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues, he is known to be a well-meaning and giving person who projects positive energy and optimism. Loyal to his family and friends, Burton cherishes his extended family, home, wildlife, and pets, considering the latter to be his family members. He enjoys sharing photos of his pet pals.
Possessing numerous gifts and an infectious spirit for life, Burton has been an award-winning student, educator, lawyer, community leader, and philanthropist for which perfectionism and professionalism have been mile markers along his life’s path. He is a rare combination of formal introversion mixed with personal vivaciousness, gregariousness, and bravery. He is a kind, empathetic person who possesses a compassionate heart that makes him approachable and generous. In addition to being dynamic, knowledgeable, proficient, and fair-minded, more than anything, he is ready, eager, and capable of supporting others. He is kind in heart and incredibly honest and trustworthy; his word is his bond. Writing, photography, travel, community service, and politics are hobbies he enjoys in his life.
Burton loves the Lord and shares his Christian faith by consistently striving to lend a helping hand and “never meeting a stranger.” He was baptized in his youth at the McAlpin Advent Christian Church. Later, he became an active parishioner at Crossroads Baptist Church in Valdosta, Georgia. Burton is honored to stand steadfast beside his prayer warriors and obedient crusaders for Christ because he loves his church family.
Burton was born into a hardworking farm family. Headquartered next to the McAlpin Advent Christian Church in Suwannee County of North Florida, his family grew a small agricultural business into a substantial million-dollar venture. The family engaged in animal and plant farming and land development. They raised calves, dairy cows, broilers, quail, and hogs and grew corn, tobacco, peanuts, cane (and made syrup), watermelons, hay, wheat, rye, and timber.
Burton credits his parents and grandparents for instilling moral values, self-worth, and family love that guides him through his life. As a son of an entrepreneur father and mother in this family, he learned to appreciate challenging work, frugality, dedication, and thoroughness. He unconditionally accepts everyone he loves.
Those invaluable life lessons he learned on the farm and from his family instilled his lifelong passion for serving as a member, volunteer, and supporter of numerous philanthropic and charitable endeavors. He gives freely of his time and resources every day.
Burton commenced his education at the McAlpin Elementary School and graduated from Suwannee High School in Live Oak, Florida, in 1968. He attended Lake City Junior College & Forest Ranger School (renamed Lake City Community College in 1969 and re-titled Florida Gateway College in 2009), graduating in 1970 with an Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Arts.
While in college, Burton was president of the local chapter of Circle K International, sponsored by the Kiwanis Club. He was a Senator and President Pro Tempore of the Student Senate and a member of the Speaker’s Bureau. The then-named Lake City Community College Alumni Association honored Burton in 1973 as a distinguished alumnus by sponsoring and endorsing him for inclusion in Outstanding Young Men of America.
Burton graduated from boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina, where he adopted the United States Marine Corps values of honor, courage, and commitment. Burton served honorably for three years (1970-1973) in the U.S. Marine Corps, rising to the rank of Corporal during the Vietnam Era. He received the National Defense Service Medal and was awarded a rifle expert badge, pistol expert badge, and other recognition. He received advanced infantry training at Camp Geiger, South Carolina. He was then trained at Fort Gordon, Georgia, as a military police officer and served as a patrol officer at Camp Pendleton, California. He received unique assignments because of his professionalism and leadership qualities.
While conducting various police roles, Burton provided security to President Richard M. Nixon and other dignitaries. He considers his military service to be one of his highest honors.
After receiving an Honorable Discharge from the U.S. Marine Corps, Burton continued his education and, in 1975, received a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing, with honors, from The University of West Florida. While there, Burton served as Chancellor of Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity.
Among many positions, Burton was president of the Florida Sigma Chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon social fraternity, House Manager, and secretary and board member of the Florida Sigma House Corporation. In 2008, the Greater Pensacola Area Sigma Alpha Epsilon Alumni Association awarded Burton the coveted and prestigious “Order of the Lion” title for “continued leadership, dedication and loyal service to the Fraternity.”
In 1976, Burton received an MBA degree in Business Administration from The University of West Florida. He received his Juris Doctor degree with honors from Western State University College of Law in Fullerton, California, in 1980.
During law school, Burton began his legal career as a Certified Law Clerk working for the District Attorney’s Office in Fullerton Municipal Court, a demanding role made more so by the pressures of law school. He taught business and law courses for Lake City Community College in Florida (now Florida Gateway College) during two summers of his law school career.
Burton thrived in law school, graduating with distinction in academic and extracurricular activities. He was Chairman of Judges’ Night and a member of Honors Moot Court for four semesters. Burton’s team won a second-place award for oral advocacy during his first semester in the Honors Moot Court competition. During his last three semesters of law school, he served as the Director of Honors Moot Court and oversaw an award-winning program. Furthermore, he was a member of the editorial board of the Western State University College of Law – Law Review.
In 1980 during his last semester of law school, Burton took the Georgia Bar Exam. He maintained a whole load of classes and simultaneously taught a course in Business for El Camino College. Burton passed the Georgia Bar Exam on his first try, becoming the first person in his law school class to become a licensed attorney.
In 1980, Burton commenced full-time employment as a classroom instructor for El Camino College in Torrance, California, where he taught for 18 years (1980-1998). He was a tenured instructor and credentialed in Business and Industrial Management, Law, and Marketing and Distribution.
Burton was a leader on numerous committees ranging from Cable T.V., Accreditation, Division Council Framework Team, Area Council Framework Team, Shared Governance Task Force, College-Wide Fiscal Committee, College-Wide Budget Committee, Area Quality Council, AFT Negotiations Team, Division Council, and various other Shared Governance and Total Quality Management Programs. He received numerous awards for his committee involvement, leadership, and advocacy in implementing Shared Governance policies at El Camino College. He received multiple Certificates of Appreciation in Recognition of his “Outstanding Contributions and Service to El Camino College.” He also received numerous “Applause Awards” commending him for demonstrating his commitment to quality and dedication to excellence.
Burton served in the Academic Senate and served as Vice-President of Legislative Affairs. The Academic Senate awarded Burton the Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and the preeminent rank of Full Professor, Business Administration.
When he resigned in 1998 to engage in other professional pursuits, El Camino College awarded Burton a commemorative plaque with the inscription: “In Recognition For 18 Years of Meritorious Service, Dr. Burton Fletcher, 1980-1998.”
Burton passed the California Bar Exam in 1981 and thus began an ongoing career in law, civil litigation, and teaching. He was a member of the State Bar of California from 1981 through 2019. In this capacity, he founded his general practice law firm in 1982, specializing in litigation, using the DBA of Fletcher & Associates. The firm employed 15 attorneys and staff at its zenith and maintained association relationships with other law firms. Burton was blessed with a remarkable and committed team.
His law practice assisted many people with personal and consumer injuries and civil injustices. Fletcher & Associates was an experienced and aggressive advocate of its client’s interests, with an excellent record for serving others. Burton was an active participant of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles and the Consumer Attorneys of California.
In 1992, Burton was an ambassador with a Torrance delegation that visited its Sister City, Kashiwa, Japan. An award-winning Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce member, he was a chamber leader and subcommittee chairperson on the Education Committee. He graduated from the Leadership Torrance Program and was its advisor and photographer.
Burton audited the Miss Torrance Pageant, was a member of Torrance Rotary and was a Paul Harris Fellow. He ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Torrance City Council in 1992 and 1994 with the “A new man for new ideas” campaign theme. Although he presented a “dizzying array of new ideas,” he lost by 114 votes in 1994.
Please continue reading about Burton’s life by reading “A Tribute to the Life of Prof. Burton Fletcher, Part Two.”