Dr. Frank G. Burke, 88, acting Archivist of the United States from 1985-1987, died in Annapolis, MD, on November 30, 2015. He had been ill with Alzheimer's disease.
Born in 1927 in Queens, NY, he joined the US Navy in the waning days of WWII, serving as a radar and ground control approach operator, which led to an early career as a radio operator for airlines such as TWA, Northwest Orient, and tiny Wien Alaska Airlines in Point Barrow, Alaska. He also had occasional stints DJ-ing for commercial radio stations.
While working for the Civil Aeronautics Administration in Fairbanks in the early 1950s, Burke did undergraduate coursework at the University of Alaska, later enrolling at the University of Chicago, where he earned an MA in 1959 and PhD in 1969 in history.
A job as an assistant curator for Archives and Manuscripts at the University of Chicago Library led to a position at the Library of Congress in the manuscripts division, where he helped develop SPINDEX, an automated control system employing one of the Library's first mainframe computers. Later, as special assistant for information retrieval at the National Archives, Burke was instrumental in developing SPINDEX II, an automated control system designed more specifically to index archival collections.
In 1968 Burke became assistant archivist for educational programs at the National Archives, where he was responsible for managing public programs, exhibits, and publications such as the quarterly journal Prologue. During his tenure he also oversaw the Archives' extensive preparations for the 1976 Bicentennial celebrations.
As executive director of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) from 1975 to 1984 and again from 1987 to 1988, Burke was instrumental in the early promotion of archives' use of computers to describe and control materials, a contribution that affected the archival profession as a whole.
In 1985 Burke became acting Archivist of the United States following Robert Warner's retirement, a position he held until Don W. Wilson's appointment in 1987.
After a brief return to NHPRC, Burke became professor of library and information services at the University of Maryland's College of Library and Information Services, where he was also the coordinator of the History and Library Sciences Dual Degree (HiLS) Program. During his tenure at UMD he was also instrumental in working to obtain the site for Archives II.
A Fellow and past president of SAA, Burke also contributed several articles to The American Archivist. A lover of jazz, he wrote, narrated, and selected material for "The Sounds of History," an audio cassette that featured materials from the National Archives' audio collection.
Memorial donations may be made in Burke's name to www.giving.umd.edu (select "other giving opportunity," select "give now," and search Frank G. Burke) or by check to The University of Maryland Foundation (please write "Frank G. Burke Fellowship" on the memo line): University of Maryland, Office of Gift Acceptance, 4603 Calvert Road, College Park, MD 20740.
—Submitted by Margaret Burke
(Photo by Amy Young, NARA, 1998.)