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Memorial Service Honors ‘Prominent, Influential, Legendary’ PR Leader

By Luke Little
Hottytoddy.com intern

Harold Burson, an Ole Miss graduate and co-founder of public relations firm Burson-Marstellar who was revered by many as the father of public relations, continues to stretch his caring hands over the people of Oxford and beyond.

This past Saturday, a celebration of life was held at the University of Mississippi’s Paris-Yates chapel as friends and family from across the globe came together to honor Burson’s impact on the world.

Harold Burson, a 1940 University of Mississippi graduate often heralded as the ‘Father of Public Relations,’ died at age 98. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services.

Robert Khayat, former Chancellor of the University of Mississippi described Burson as
“prominent, influential, and legendary.”

Burson’s reach was nothing short of spectacular. He poured his heart and soul into not only his professional life, but he sought to give back that same love to those in his personal life as well, according to many who spoke at the service. A number of notable colleagues and friends came to Oxford to share stories and personal impacts Burson had on them over his 98 years of life.

Former CEO of Burson-Marstellar and longtime friend Don Baer recalled that he knew about the Burson’s legend years before he actually met him, remembering him as the people-person that he was.

“He cared, and his caring was real. It went to the core of who he was,” said Baer. “He never stopped believing that tomorrow could be better than today.”

Aside from notable work accomplishments over his career, those who met Burson would first notice his contagious love towards the people around him as he sought to empower and guide them to success.

“What truly set him apart was not just his business, but how he did it,” said former Chief Client Officer of Burson-Marstellar Pat Ford. “Harold always believed the key to success was how you empowered people.”

Shuri Fukunaga, former Managing Director and CEO of Burson-Marstellar Japan, referred to Burson as a “compass to common sense,” serving as a major influence in both her professional and personal life.

Burson, now reunited once again with the love of his life Bette Ann, continues to impact the Oxford community today with wisdom and knowledge imparted to students and professionals alike. 

Burson died early in the morning Jan. 10 at the age of 98. He is survived by sons Scott and Mark Burson.

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