James L. Burnham (Class of 1956)
Marilyn Collier Burnham (Class of 1957)
When Jim Burnham came to Truett-McConnell in the fall of 1954 as a freshman, he had no idea that one day he would marry a TMC girl and then, many years later, he would marry another TMC girl! And when Marilyn Collier entered TMC the following fall, she had no way of knowing that sophomore Jimmy Burnham, who would become her good friend, would also become her husband 43 years later. This story speaks volumes of the strength of the bonds and friendships that Truett-McConnell students have always formed and continue to this day to form—bonds and friendships that last as long as the parties inhabit this earth.
For Jim Burnham TMC will always be special in his life and memories. He says: “I was young, green and inexperienced when I arrived at the old campus [on the town square] in the fall of 1954. I was only 17! Under the guidance and tutelage of Miss Mullis, I began finding my way spiritually and career-wise.”
For Jim, the biggest and greatest change was meeting and beginning to date Mary Anne Coffey, also a TMC student. He says that their courtship and subsequent marriage were life-changing, life-enriching experiences. In the meantime, Marilyn Collier graduated from TMC in the spring of 1957 and went to work at Toccoa Casket Company in the billing department. The next year she married Roger Haynie and moved to Athens, while her husband completed his degree at the University of Georgia.
After Roger’s graduation, the Haynies moved to Laurens, South Carolina, where Roger was employed in management with Milliken Textile. Their two sons, Richard and Ronald, were born there. Marilyn worked for H & R Block for 11 years and then for Josten Cap and Gown Company in customer service for 10 years.
Jim Burnham graduated from TMC in 1956 and continued his education at Mercer University, ultimately receiving both a Master of Divinity and a Master of Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Mary Anne, were appointed by the Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board) as missionaries to Israel, where they served for 21 years. Jim also served as a US Army chaplain from 1966 to 1970, including a tour of duty in Vietnam in 1967-1968. He earned a paratrooper badge and a Bronze Star, as well as being decorated for heroism in Vietnam.
Marilyn Haynie’s husband, Roger, passed away in 1980, and Marilyn and her two sons moved to Anderson, South Carolina, in 1985, where she worked as manager of a home health care business. Her sons grew up, married, and presented her with grandchildren; she now has four grandchildren and four step-grandchildren, whom she describes as “the joy of my life.”
Jim and Mary Anne Burnham had three children: a daughter, Teresa Darlene; a son, James L.; and another daughter, Melody Lenora. Jim now has five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Mary Anne Coffey Burnham passed away from cancer shortly after Jim’s and her fortieth wedding anniversary. Before her death, she told Jim that if he wished to re-marry, he was to know that he had her blessing. As he put it, “Little did I know at that time that I would wed another TMC beauty, Marilyn Collier.”
Widow Marilyn Collier and widower Jim Burnham renewed their old TMC friendship after more than 40 years because of a suggestion made by another TMC alumna, Alicia Hampton. Alicia and Marilyn Collier Haynie are first cousins, and both had been students at TMC in 1955-56. Alicia had met and married her TMC sweetheart, Clyde Hampton, who just happened to be the roommate of Jim Burnham when both were students at Mercer University following their graduation from TMC. Jim Burnham and Clyde Hampton are still best friends to this day.
The friendship between Jim and Marilyn soon blossomed into romance, and the two were married in 1998. The Burnhams live in Williamston, South Carolina, and travel as much as possible. Jim sometimes does interim pastorates of churches; both stay busy and enjoy trips with their seniors group and church activities.
For both Marilyn and Jim Burnham, Truett-McConnell College is a special place, a place of fond memories—not only of the many friendships they made but because some of those friendships turned into long-lasting marriages.
Comments Jim: “Thank you, TMC, for enriching my life in manifold ways.”