Last modified on March 20, 2022, at 22:04

Henry Burns

Henry Lee Burns

Louisiana State Representative for
District 9 (Bossier Parish)
In office
January 14, 2008 – January 2016
Preceded by Billy Montgomery
Succeeded by Dodie Horton

Born March 2, 1947
Shongaloo, Webster Parish
Political party Democrat-turned-Republican (2006)
Spouse(s) Lynette Burns
Residence Haughton, Bossier Parish
Alma mater Shongaloo High School

Northwestern State University
Pepperdine University

Occupation Bakery owner; Horse breeder

Military Service
Service/branch United States Army

(Trained U.S. Seals and United States Navy personnel)

Rank Second Lieutenant, Ordnance officer, and Lieutenant Colonel (retired)
Awards Navy Commendation Medal

Henry Lee Burns (born March 2, 1947) is a Republican former state representative for District 9 in Bossier Parish in northwestern Louisiana. He owns and operates the Wooden Spoon bakery in Bossier City and is a thoroughbred owner and breeder.[1]

Burns ran unsuccessfully in the nonpartisan blanket primary held on October 24, 2015, for the District 36 seat in the Louisiana State Senate vacated by the term-limited Republican Robert Roy Adley. Burns carried the backing of both the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and the state AFL-CIO.[2] He was defeated for the state Senate by the Moderate Republican Ryan Gatti, a close friend of Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards.


A native of Shongaloo in Webster Parish, north of Minden,[2] Burns is one of three sons of the late Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Burns, Sr. In 1958, Burns, Sr. (1907-1976), won a write-in election for a seat on the Webster Parish School Board, having unseated the incumbent board member Parey Branton,[3] his fellow Democrat, who was later the three-term District 10 state representative for Webster Parish. One of Burns' brothers, Kerry O. Burns (1940-2015), was a Webster Parish property tax assessor prior to 2004. Another brother is A. J. Burns, Jr., of West Monroe, Louisiana.[4] Burns, Sr., was a nephew by marriage of O. H. Haynes, Sr., the Webster Parish sheriff from 1933 to 1952.

Henry Burns is a former member of the Bossier Parish School Board and a raconteur who frequently lectures at public schools on the guidelines to success in life, with emphasis on perseverance.

Until the late 1980s, Burns was an independent petroleum and natural gas operator. When the business failed, he launched his bakery despite the odds against success and his having to learn the business from scratch. "I went from crude oil to Crisco oil," Burns said, noting that his accountant, bankers, and attorney told him that he had too much debt for his venture to succeed. Nevertheless, the Wooden Spoon had some success: "No one knew I was down and out because I had a smile on my face and never stopped." Burns said that the bakery succeeded because "people respond to cookies ... [as] a reminder of their childhood."[5]

Burns graduated in 1965 from Shongaloo High School. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in upper elementary education from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches and his Master of Arts in educational administration from Pepperdine University, a Churches of Christ institution in Malibu in coastal California.[1]

Military service

Burns was commissioned on the steps of the U.S. Capitol as a second lieutenant in the United States Army by then U.S. Representative Joe Waggonner of Louisiana's 4th congressional district. An explosive ordnance officer with specialty in nuclear weapons, Burns also trained Army Special Forces and United States Navy Seals in the defusing of bombs. He retired from the militarty at the rank of lieutenant colonel.[2]

From 1971 to 1974, he earned his military branch assignment at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland as an ordnance officer with the "Bomb Squad". He instructed joint service personnel, allied forces, NATO forces, foreign nationals, and FBI and CIA officers on military munitions, clandestine devices, embassy and presidential security, and special weapons. He received the Navy Commendation Medal. From 1974 to 1977, Burns transferred to Hawaii as a special weapons officer, served as a branch chief, and received the Army Commander Medal. From 1978 to 1979, he joined the United States Army Reserves in Livonia, Michigan, where he served as company commander for a prisoner of war camp. From 1979 to 1997, Burns served in the 4th Brigade, 95th Division and 4158th USAR School.[2]

Burns was activated in 1987 and 1989 to serve as the operations officer for Lone Ironman I and II, a test to verify readiness training conducted at Fort Polk near Leesville in Vernon Parish in western Louisiana. Burns received the Meritorious Service Medal, the highest peacetime medal for duty performance.[2]

Political career

As a Democrat, Burns served fifteen years on the school board. In 1998, he ran third as a Democrat in the primary election for Bossier Parish property tax assessor, the position held in Webster Parish by his brother, Kerry Burns. The victor in the ensuing general election was Republican Bobby W. Edmiston.[6]

Burns switched parties in 2006 and entered the legislative race vacated by the term-limited Billy Wayne Montgomery, who ran instead, unsuccessfully, the state Senate, having lost to former state Representative B. L. "Buddy" Shaw of Shreveport. Burns won Montgomery's House seat by eighty-seven votes in the primary held on October 20, 2007. In the GOP-oriented district, Burns defeated fellow Republican Richey Jackson, also of Haughton and an employee of the Bossier-Webster District Attorney's office, 5,225 (50.4 percent) to 5,138 (49.6 percent).[7]

Burns served on these House committees: (1) Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture and Rural Development; (2) Natural Resources and Environment; and (3) Transportation, Highways and Public Works. He is also affiliated with the Louisiana Rural Caucus.[8]

Burns was unopposed for his second term in the House in the primary election held on October 22, 2011. Rather than seeking a third term in 2015, he instead ran for the state Senate in a district encompassing Bossier, Webster, Bienville, and Claiborne parishes.[2]

Legislative ratings and record

In 2010, Burns' legislation to permit weapons into houses of worship passed the legislature and was signed into law by then Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican. The measure passed as an amendment to a concealed weapons permit proposal. the New Orleans Times-Picayune said that Burns' bill "authorized persons who qualified to carry concealed weapons having passed the training and background checks to bring them to churches, mosques, synagogues or other houses of worship as part of a security force. The pastor or head of the religious institution must announce verbally or in weekly newsletters or bulletins that there will be individuals armed on the property as members of he security force. Those chosen have to undergo eight hours of tactical training each year."[9] Burns' legislation received later media emphasis following the tragic church shooting in Sutherland Springs in northern Wilson County, near San Antonio, Texas, in which Devin Patrick Kelley murdered twenty-six persons and injured others before himself committing suicide.

Burns's legislative ratings have ranged from 78 to 100 percent from the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. In 2012, he was rated 83 percent by the National Federation of Independent Business. In 2013 and 2014, he was rated 90 and 100 percent, respectively, by the conservative Louisiana Family Forum. Louisiana Right to Life scored him 100 percent for every year that he has been a legislator. In 2013 and 2014, the Louisiana Association of Educators rated him 42 and 50 percent, respectively.[10]

In 2014, Burns co-sponsored the requirement that abortion providers have hospital admitting privileges near their clinics; the bill was approved by the full House, 88-5. In 2014, he voted for the extension of time for implementation of the Common Core State Standards Initiative. He voted to prohibit the prohibition of the transportation of dogs in the beds of pick-up trucks while traveling on interstate highways; the measure passed the House, 53-34. He voted against the requirement that companies must give notice when they engage in hydraulic fracking. He voted against the repeal of the anti-sodomy laws. He supported the establishment of surrogacy contracts. He voted against reducing the penalties for the possession of marijuana, but the measure passed the House, 54-38. He voted for lifetime concealed carry gun permits and co-sponsored the establishment of concealed-carry privileges in restaurants that sell alcoholic beverages. He supported the prohibition against making information about gun permit holders a matter of public record. He voted in 2013 to increase judicial pay, which passed the House, 78-18, and to remove the mandatory retirement age for judges, which was rejected 63-33.[11]

In 2012, Burns voted to prohibit the use of cell phones while driving; the ban passed the House, 68-29. He did not vote in 2011 regarding restricting the use of other hand-held cellular devices for driving. He supported tax incentives for attracting a National Basketball Association team to Louisiana, which passed the House, 60-41. He backed the establishment of state income tax deductions for individuals who contribute to scholarship funds, which was approved 66-37. He voted to reduce the number of hours that polling locations remain open; Louisiana has traditionally had 14-hour polling days. He co-sponsored drug testing of certain welfare recipients; the bill passed the House, 65 to 26. He supported changes in the teacher tenure law. In 2011, he voted for parole eligibility for elderly inmates; the measure passed the House, 65-25. He opposed the permanent tax on cigarettes and voted for the establishment of a commission to develop a plan for ending the state income tax. He supported redistricting plans for the Louisiana State Senate and Louisiana's six seats in the United States House of Representatives. Burns opposed the anti-bullying measure for public schools; the disputed bill failed, 43 to 54.[11]

In the state Senate primary in 2015, Burns led a three-candidate field with 10,202 votes (40.3 percent). Ryan Gatti trailed with 8,649 votes (34.2 percent). The Demcorat Todd Hollenshead polled the critical 6,465 votes (25.5 percent).[12] In the November 21 runoff election, Burns was defeated by 326 votes, 13,698 (49l.4 percent) to Ryan Gatti's 14,023 votes (50.6 percent) to 13,698 (49.4 percent). Burns trailed in his native Webster Parish by 557 votes, 231 votes more than that of his overall loss.[13]

With Burns running for the state Senate, two Republicans contested the primary election to succeed him in the House. To claim Burns' seat, his legislative aide, conservative Dodie Horton of Haughton, defeated Michael Ray "Mike" McHalffey (born March 1959)[14] of Benton, the Bossier parish seat of government.[15] Horton polled 4,584 votes (63.8 percent) to McHalffey's 2,602 (36.2 percent).[12]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Representative Henry L. Burns. Project Vote Smart. Retrieved on December 24, 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Henry Burns running for state senate. Minden Press-Herald (September 4, 2015). Retrieved on September 7, 2015.
  3. "Burns Wins Over School Board Head: Gets 55 Percent of Votes for Victory over Branton", Minden Herald, November 6, 1958, p. 1.
  4. Kerry O. Burns. Minden Press-Herald (May 22, 2015). Retrieved on September 7, 2015.
  5. "State Representative offers students encouragement", The Shreveport Times, December 3, 2008.
  6. Louisiana Secretary of State, Primary election returns, October 3, 1998.
  7. Louisiana Secretary of State, Primary election returns, October 20, 2007.
  8. Louisiana House of Representatives website, Henry L. Burns. Retrieved on December 24, 2008.
  9. Ex-Rep. Henry Burns and His 2010 'Guns-in-Church' law. KEEL (AM) (November 6, 2017). Retrieved on February 17, 2018.
  10. Henry L. Burns's Ratings and Endorsements. Project Vote Smart. Retrieved on May 19, 2015.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Henry L. Burns's Voting Records. Project Vote Smart (May 19, 2015).
  12. 12.0 12.1 Results for Election Date: 10/24/2015. Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved on October 24, 2015.
  13. Election Returns. Louisiana Secretary of State (November 21, 2015). Retrieved on February 17, 2018.
  14. Michael McHalffey, March 1959. Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved on September 11, 2015.
  15. Candidates Qualified in Statewide Elections. KEEL (AM). Retrieved on September 11, 2015.