Burns is PGC King: Cathedral graduate will reign during first half of Pilgrimage
NATCHEZ — Attending the University of Alabama has helped Harrison Burns find out who he is and who he wants to be, but a search of his family history helped him find out from where he came.
What the Pilgrimage Garden Club King found during some research with his mom, Laura, made his crowning that much more sentimental.
“We found out that I’m a direct descendant of Gen. Charles Clark, who was the first governor of Mississippi under the Confederacy,” Burns said. “We were looking up some information on how my outfit should look, trying to make it as authentic as we could, and a while back my grandmother did a big genealogy.”
“My mom started looking back through that family tree and found the connection.”
What started as some simple research for the style of his uniform, turned into a revelation of his family’s history that helped Burns realize just how deep his roots ran.
A 2009 graduate of Cathedral High School, Burns is currently a junior at the University of Alabama majoring in chemical and biological engineering.
A Natchez native, Burns said it was his mother and his grandmother who initially got him started in Tableaux as far back as he can remember.
“As a little kid you’d rather be doing something else than going to do all these performances,” Burns said. “But looking back at it, I’m really thankful I was so involved with it.”
While Burns said there’s no place quite like Natchez, he wanted his college experience
to take him out of state and on to new adventures — even if that meant leaving behind the friends and classmates with whom he grew up.
“It was kind of bittersweet to graduate and leave, but it was really fun also because I really got away from everything and was able to find out who I really am,” Burns said. “I loved all my friends and stuff, but I kind of wanted something new where I was forced to meet new people.”
But the push to attend the university didn’t come out of thin air.
“My grandfather went to Alabama, so he kind poked and prodded a little bit to get me here,” Burns said, laughing. “I just fell in love with Alabama and obviously football is always a big draw.
“Being able to watch some good football doesn’t hurt.”
In Tuscaloosa, Ala., Burns is a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, Golden Key honor society and Phi Eta Sigma honor society.
Having a fellow Cathedral graduate and former PGC king, Jesse Morrison, in his fraternity is something Burns said helped him tremendously as far as explaining the tradition of pilgrimage to his peers.
“If it wouldn’t have been for Jesse, most of my friends wouldn’t really understand what Tableaux is or why we do it, but they kind of get it because he’s already gone through all that,” Burns said. “They’re more surprised at how much I have to travel, but they all understand because of him.”
During the Tableaux season, Burns has to drive back and forth between Natchez and Tuscaloosa to balance taking classes and reigning as king.
At Cathedral, Burns was a member of the National Honor Society, Peer Ministry Team and was salutatorian of his class.
Burns also lettered in soccer for five years, went all district twice, was the district’s most valuable defender twice, team captain of the Cathedral squad, most valuable player his senior year and led his team to the South State Soccer Championship.
He also lettered in football two years and was all metro and all region one year.
The time he spent at Cathedral, Burns said, is something he won’t soon forget.
“It was just such a close-knit family there to where I knew everyone and everyone knew me and my family,” Burns said. “I believe I was the fourth generation Burns to go through Cathedral, so that made it more of a family atmosphere.”
Burns is the son of Paul and Laura Burns of Natchez and the grandson of Therese Burns and the late Peter Burns and the late Bethany Byrd Lambdin Overton, the late Waldo P. Lambdin and James W. Overton.
His previous pageant participation includes Little Maypole, Big Maypole, Raising of the Flag, Picnic, Soiree and Soiree Sweetheart, The Showboat, The Polka and The Wedding.
As he prepares to start his senior year at the University of Alabama, Burns said he is looking forward to starting a new chapter in his life.
“Right when I graduate, I think I want to get out and see a little more of what’s out there, but I definitely want to start my family in Natchez,” Burns said. “It’s just something about the family atmosphere.
“It’s just a good atmosphere to grow up in.”