Darnce Burns, Class of 1918, was an athlete, soldier and family man. He is remembered as part of the team that famously beat UT 13-0, but his legacy in Aggieland extends beyond football.
During his time at A&M, Burns served as the quarterback for the Aggies, the captain of the 1916 champion basketball team and played baseball as well. The Bowie native was given the name “Bowie Wonder” in recognition of his athletic feats.
From 1915 to 1916, Burns was a member of the Ross Volunteers, a merit-based military organization that serves as the official Honor Guard of the Governor of Texas, according to the Corps of Cadets website. Burns majored in civil engineering, but never graduated from the university since he enlisted for World War I in 1918. Burns was part of Company D, Regiments 310 and 6. During his military service, he earned the rank of colonel and fought in World War II and the Korean War.
According to family friend William Penn Jones, not only was Burns an athlete and soldier, but he was also passionate about deer hunting and enjoyed painting. Some of Burns belongings were donated to the Cushing Library by the Jones family, including his rattle antlers for deer hunting and a painting of a turkey.
“Some of the photos that he had, you could see numerous mounted deer heads ... from successful hunts, so it seemed to be a passion of his,” said Anton Duplessis, an archivist from Cushing Library.
Another item donated was Burns’ Ross Volunteer boots. Duplessis said the library staff knew immediately they were authentic Aggie boots by the brand.
“Part of it was the design of them,” Duplessis said. “We have other boots we can use [to compare] and oftentimes … they will have the manufacturer who [made] it.”
Jones said his father and Burns were part of the 36th Division of the Army National Guard together. While Burns he didn’t return to A&M to finish his degree, he was very proud of being an Aggie and often reminisced about his days on the football team, Jones said.
“He did like to remind people that he was the quarterback that beat Texas 13-0,” William said. “He was proud of that fact that he was part of that game.”
After a loss against UT the following year, Aggies secretly branded the 13-0 score into UT’s longhorn. As the story goes, UT students then re-branded the steer creating the name Bevo out of the Aggie’s score.
“I graduated from UT and Bevo was always at all the games … and the fact that Colonel Burns helped produce that 13-0 score, I just thought that was the neatest thing in the world,” William said. “Bevo is still out there today as part of the UT tradition, so it just all tied together.”
After retiring from the military, Burns was a member of the Texas National Guard’s 36th Division in 1935, which at the time was called the Texas Ranger Force. The Ranger Force investigated murders, theft of livestock, gambling and other crimes.
“That’s just one element of his story [and that’s] pretty impressive adding to his list of other accomplishments,” Jones’ daughter Melis Jones said.
The Jones family said they are committed to sharing Burns’ story with fellow Aggies and helping his legacy live on.
“He deeply loved his school, he loved his country and his family,” Melis Jones said. “Our family has deep respect for Col. Burns, and we just wanted to make sure that we shared this and pass it on to the A&M community.”