BOSTON: Thomas D. Burns, trial lawyer and co-founding partner of the Boston law firm Burns & Levinson LLP, passed away on February 27, 2016, due to cancer. The son of Joseph Lawrence and Catherine Horne Burns, he was born in 1921 in Andover, Mass. An avid skier, golfer and traveler, his two passions were his family and the practice of law. He attended local schools, including Phillips Academy, Brown University, and Boston University Law School, from which he graduated in 1943. In 1995, he received the Law School’s Award for Distinguished Professional Services.
During World War II, Mr. Burns served in combat as a naval officer in Europe and in the Pacific. He returned to Boston to pursue a legal career, having passed the bar while on active duty as a naval officer. He began as an associate at Friedman, Atherton, King & Turner in Boston. There, he met his life-long friend, colleague and future Burns & Levinson founding partner, Lawrence M. Levinson who died in 2003. The firm was started in 1960 and grew rapidly. Mr. Burns became a renowned trial attorney, spending most of his time in the courthouse. During his long career he represented numerous national insurance companies, banks, manufacturers, and corporations, as well as law firms, newspapers, and colleges throughout New England. Until his last days, he went to the office nearly every day.
Esteemed by his colleagues who have noted his impact on the practice of law, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly named him one of the state’s most influential lawyers. On the occasion of his 90th birthday, Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) joined with Burns & Levinson LLP to establish the Thomas D. Burns Scholarship Fund. The fund honors his leadership in the legal community and funds participation in MCLE programs. He was appointed by Governor Francis Sargent to the Judicial Council of the Commonwealth and was appointed Vice Chairman of the Massachusetts Judicial Nominating Commission by Governor Edward King.
A member of numerous clubs and organizations he served as Chairman of the Judicial Selection Committee of the Boston and Massachusetts Bar Associations; Fellow, Massachusetts State Chairman, and Treasurer of the American College of Trial Lawyers; trustee of the American Textile History Museum; Advisory Board of WGBH-TV; trustee of The Pike School; and member of Phillips Andover Academy Alumni Council.
He is survived by his wife, Marjorie Andrew Burns; and three of his four children, Wendy Conquest of Hanover, N.H., Lansing Burns of Fairfield, Conn., and Poppy (Lisa) Burns, of New York, N.Y.; as well as four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He is also survived by two of his three sisters, Anne Laskey and Constance Silverman. He was predeceased by his daughter, Diane (DeDe) Longley; his sister, Cathleen Elmer; and his brothers, Joseph Burns, Donald Burns, and John Horne Burns, author of the World War II novel The Gallery.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, April 16, at 2 p.m., in the Church of the Redeemer, 379 Hammond Street, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Care Dimensions, 75 Sylvan Street, Suite B-102, Danvers, MA 01923. Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Boston Harborside Home of J.S. Waterman & Sons Waring-Langone. For online condolences and/or directions, please visit www.bostonharborsidehome.com.
Published on  March 6, 2016