William Joseph Burnett

Published 9:33 am Friday, May 15, 2020

William Joseph Burnett, M. D., died on Wednesday, May 13, 2020, at home surrounded by family in Oxford. He was the husband of Martha Grant Burnett, his beloved wife of 59 years. 

While Joe was involved in his profession and community in many ways, his top priority was always his family. He is survived by his wife; his children, Elizabeth Burnett (Ed Pyle), Margaret Burnett (Jason Wolfkill), William Joseph Burnett, Jr. (Joanna), and Kathryn Elliott (Allen Elliott); his grandchildren Grant, Thomas, and Annalise Burnett, William, Miller, and Lock Elliott, and Megan, Brandon, and Kate Wolfkill; numerous nieces and nephews; his sister Mary Burnett Sims; and many dear friends whom he counted as family. He was predeceased by his parents, Jesse and Florence Burnett, and his brothers, Jesse L. Burnett and John B. Burnett.   

Born in Charleston, Miss., Joe earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Mississippi and his medical degree from the University of Mississippi School of Medicine. 

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After completing his internship in Memphis, Tenn., Dr. Burnett practiced general medicine in Grenada, Miss. Following a residency at the University of Tennessee Medical Center and in collaboration with the late Dr. Bo Murry, Dr. Burnett began his otolaryngology practice in Oxford. He created the Ear, Nose, and Throat Clinic of Oxford from which he retired in 1988. After his retirement from the practice of medicine, Dr. Burnett became the Director of the Board of Medical Licensure for the state of Mississippi. Dr. Burnett was a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the American College of Otolaryngology, and the College of Facial Plastic Surgery. 

Always committed to serving and stepping into leadership, Joe served as the Commander of Sigma Nu Fraternity at the University of Mississippi, a captain in the Mississippi National Guard, and a leader in chartering Oxford Medical Ministries. Dr. Burnett also served as Board Chair and President of the Mississippi State Medical Association and was an alternate delegate to the American Medical Association.  

Joe was a lifelong Presbyterian who attended the first session at Camp Hopewell. As a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Oxford, he served as an elder and was a faithful member of the men’s Sunday school class. Dr. Burnett chaired the committee that planned and built the First Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall. Through First Presbyterian-Oxford, he and Martha were able to serve in Haiti with the church’s Medical Missions team.

During this time of social-distancing, there is not a way to gather for a traditional service to celebrate the life of Dr. Burnett and to serve as witnesses to the Resurrection of Christ. Immediate family only will gather for a memorial service. The family invites extended family and friends to livestream the service on Facebook Live on Saturday, May 16, at 11 a.m. Waller Funeral Home will provide a direct link through https://www.facebook.com/wallerfuneralhome/live/. 

Memorial donations may be sent to support the mission programs of the First Presbyterian Church, 924 Van Buren Avenue, Oxford, MS 38655, or to the food bank of your choice; Dr. Burnett was committed to feeding children who suffer food-insecurity. 

For additional information or to leave an online condolence, please call 662.234.7971 or visit www.wallerfuneralhome.com.