The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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L. Grady Burgiss - Poet Laureate Of Yadkin County, NC

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1984-2012

Issue: December, 1984

L. Grady Burgiss was born in 1902 in Yadkin County, North Carolina, near Winsor's Cross Roads. His father was Thomas Edward Burgiss, a farmer and school teacher. When Mr. Burgiss was about 12, the family moved to Elkin, about 15 miles from his birthplace. His father started a grocery business there and his mother operated a small hotel. After about two years, both businesses failed and the family suffered serious financial difficulties.

Grady helped out the family by selling newspapers and buying his own clothes. He also did odd jobs for people as he could find them. At 14, he was working a 60 hour week at a furniture factory at 4.5 cents an hour, with $2.70 as his maximum weekly wage. By 1916, because of the poor health of his mother and financial difficulties, Grady was forced to quit school and help support his family full time.

By 1925, Mr. Burgiss felt the call to the Gospel ministry and made plans to re-enter school. He was ordained in the Elkin First Baptist Church. The enormous load he was trying to carry proved too much for his physical strength and in 1926, he was stricken with tuberculosis. He was diagnosed as "far advanced" and his future seemed doubtful. He was nursed first at a sanatorium for nearly a year and then at home by his mother for the next eight years. It was 1931 before he was even able to have a meal out of bed. It was during this time that he started composing poetry. Later, as his strength improved, he began seriously reading and studying.

In 1935, he was able to stand and preach his first sermon. His first pastorate was with the Arlington First Baptist Church. Since then, he has worked in many churches throughout North Carolina, being instrumental in the founding of several. In the meantime, he had married Miss Annie Cooper, a childhood friend.

Today L. Grady Burgiss is 81 years old and retired. He continues to write poetry and was designated the Poet Laureate of Yadkin County in appreciation of his contribution to the county in encouraging young people to read.

It seems age has nothing to do with a zest for life. Not if you know people like Mr. Burgiss. He's an inspiration to people of all ages. At present he has published several books of poetry. Anyone interested in obtaining them may write to Mr. Burgiss at P.O. Box 828, Elkin, N.C. 28621. The following poem was taken from his book, A Temple Of Trees.


My work is done:—Now let me rest.
Let these few years include the best
Of peaceful days, and simple joys,
Enriched by Nature's living toys:—

The ant that builds his rounded hill;
The spider on my window sill;

The thrush's song, in sylvan shades;
The rustling corn, with waving blades;

The tall and slender trees, so high
Against the Evening's painted sky;

The martin's graceful, soaring flight;
The crickets singing through the night:-

All these, the gifts of Nature's art,
Are treasures in my aging heart

Which throbs, then rests, and throbs again
To be a blessing to all men.

L. Grady Burgiss
Written June 24, 1970 (3:00-6:00 a.m.)

Now read this poem by Mr. Burgiss written 13 years later.

At Eighty-One

At eighty-one!!-
And not half done
The things I wish to do!
In this grand world
With splendors hurled
Across my dazzled view;
A hundred years
My eyes and ears
Could gleaming goals pursue!

Pursue with might
Some mountain height
Where grandeur stirs my soul-
Pursue with zeal
The sound and feel
Where ocean breakers roll-
Pursue with zest
New Truth, impressed
On Life's expanding scroll-
Pursue, through Grace,
A secret place
Where life, and Peace are whole.

With heart and mind
Still bent to find
Earth's secrets one by one,
I shall not grieve
If I must leave
Some trophies never won;
And yet my quest
For Heaven's best
Still throbs at eighty-one!

L. Grady Burgiss
Written March 4, 1983.