July 5, 2021

REMEMBERING THE CHEROKEE PEOPLE

This is a favorite photo of Jerry and Marilyn for several reasons.  First of all, they were both healthy although still grieving the death of Kim, their only child.  Jerry is holding Kim’s beloved little dog Mandy who was like a tangible memory with them for several years. But another favorite aspect of the photo is the signed limited edition print over their mantel.

The artist was Jerry’s cousin Howard Burger.  Tootsie’s mother was Alta Burger and we knew her sisters Pearl and Ida.  There were other siblings and relatives—and everyone always said Monte and Easy had the Burger genes for being so tall.  Howard was one of the cousins—about 5 years older than Tootsie.  His father died when he was a boy and he began painting Athens store fronts. He eventually went to George Washington University and had a long career in Washington, D.C.as a commercial artist and engineer.  I think he moved back to Tennessee after he retired and began painting scenes related to local history.  Jerry enjoyed getting acquainted with him and bought several of his prints.  Marilyn especially loved this one of a Cherokee Chief Daniel “Boone” Hornbuckle. She had a great-grandmother who was Cherokee and her features show this heritage. 

Many of the place names in East Tennessee reflect the early Cherokee people who lived along the Hiwassee, Tellico and Little Tennessee rivers.  There were towns like Tellico, Etowah, Niota, Ooltewah, and Ocoee.  The McMinn County High School teams were called the Cherokees (and still are).  The legend of Nocatula is part of the history of Tennessee Wesleyan University in Athens, with a statue and historic markers on campus. 

It’s interesting when someone from humble beginnings in a small town achieves unexpected levels of professional success—and then returns to his roots and enjoys painting local scenes and historical subjects.  Howard Burger prints are still available at regional galleries and on eBay.  I think the one in this photo is my favorite! 

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