Matt Burns passed away unexpectedly while mowing the backyard on Monday, May 27th. Born in Atlanta, Georgia to John McDougal Burns and Susan Ann Wallace, growing up he lived in many states, but Alabama was always home. In Montgomery, he witnessed first-hand the tumultuous civil right movement of the 1960’s. Matt attended prep school, graduating from the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and then studying at Michigan State University where he met the love of his life–Jurate.
Upon graduating from MSU, Matt joined the Army during the waning days of Vietnam, and due to the drawdown, served his time stateside. After his time in the Army, Matt attended the University of Alabama Law School on the GI Bill. Upon setting foot on the Capstone, during the height of Bear Bryant’s reign in Tuscaloosa, Matt’s lifelong devotion to the Crimson Tide was forever etched into his heart. A top student, Matt and a group of friends started the University of Alabama Law School Law and Psychology Review in 1975. During law school, Matt and Jurate frequently visited Destin, Florida, at times staying with their friends the Morgans and the Deans. During his second year of law school Matt received a Commission in the United States Navy to serve as a JAG officer, but upon graduation, he delayed entry to serve one year as Law Clerk to Alabama Court of Civil Appeals Judge Robert Bradley.
Matt’s JAG service was at the Navy’s Construction Battalion in Gulfport, Mississippi, which was close enough to Destin to eventually lure him into a Florida practice. In 1979, after fulfilling his commitment to the Navy, Matt became Destin’s second full time attorney where he immediately became involved in the incorporation of Destin.
Though a staunch conservative later in life, he and his friend Retired Judge, General T. Patterson Maney took the point on one of this country’s most important civil rights cases wherein they procured equal pay for minorities serving the Air Force. Matt also spent a lot of his early practice working on Howard Hughes’ Estate and the many lawsuits connected to it. During the ensuing decades Matt was mostly an old school solo practitioner with a true general practice–handling complex real estate matters, defending clients in criminal matters, marriages, adoptions, divorces, bankruptcies, business disputes, etc. Matt was a jack-of-all trades, and his clients were his friends, not merely customers.
Matt believed in balance, and at 5:00 p.m. most days, he left work at the office. He was most proud of his volunteer legal work for numerous civic entities, such as the Destin History and Fishing Museum, and the original Destin YMCA. He threw himself wholeheartedly into coaching and sponsoring Little League baseball and Destin Dolphins football teams. Matt prided himself on being a world traveler, with many vacations being planned around his favorite pastime–food.
Matt is survived by his wife of 50 years, Jurate Kutkus Burns, former Destin Library Director, his sons Matthew, Jr. (Jennifer), Jeffrey (Lindsey), and three granddaughters. His proudest moments were watching the boys succeed in sports, and then in the professional world. Matt leaves two brothers, Josh (Betsy) and Mark (Martha), along with several nieces and nephews who all live out of state. His best-friend Mickey will miss their regular trips to the dog park along with the occasional wayward table scrap.
There will be a celebration of life for his local friends on Saturday, June 8th at 4p.m. at the Destin History and Fishing Museum. A private funeral ceremony will be held in Pensacola, Florida, at Barrancas National Cemetery on July 18th. Emerald Coast Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to either the Destin History and Fishing Museum or Panhandle Animal Welfare Society (PAWS). Roll Tide!