John Anthony Burns

In Office 1962 to 1974


Governor Burns

John Anthony Burns was the second elected Governor of the State from 1962 to 1974. Burns played a leading role in stimulating the state economy and attracting foreign tourism and investment. His many achievements include the promotion of Hawaiʻi as a center for oceanography, construction of the new State Capitol building, and expansion of the University of Hawaiʻi.

First Lady

As a nurse in the Army Nurses Corps, Beatrice Majors Van Vleet met John Burns while on assignment at Schofield Barracks and married him in June 1931. In 1937, Mrs. Burns lost her third child due to polio, but by 1937 she had her fourth child, James. She was First Lady of the state from 1962 to 1974. Mrs. Burns led the effort to restore the gardens of Washington Place and much of what is enjoyed today is the result of that effort. She called herself a “farmer at heart” and was especially fond of African violets.

On Being First Lady…

[Dignitaries] visits never scared me. When I was little, I was extremely shy. Then when I went to nurses’ training, I sort of worked through this and I think I got that all over with when I was younger. I think I had no shyness left. I really enjoyed my years at Washington Place.

Washington Place

Jack turned Washington Place over to me and he said, “That’s your kuleana [responsibility].” The garden was in very bad shape, and so I said, “Well what will I do?” He said, “call the different groups in, you know who they are, call them in. Feed them lunch and talk to them.” So I did. Besides the garden renovations, Mrs. Burns believed in opening Washington Place to the people of Hawai´i, especially to children. She regularly took groups of people on tours of the first floor and garden.

Washington Place Memory

He [Governor Burns] used to work at home. He did a lot of his work. He had all of his papers as he didn’t have much time to do that sort of thing, the paperwork, in the office. It was either interviews or phone calls. The breakfast room looked like it had been shot at and missed. And the State dining room had papers lined up there we didn’t dare touch. And sometimes they were there when I had tours and I’d just explain, and all the women loved it, because their husbands did the same thing.


View curated photos from each governor and their families during their residences at Washington Place. Hit the right and left arrows to view more.

John Anthony Burns

In office 1962 to 1974

Photographer unknown, Washington Place Collection.

Mrs. Beatrice M. Burns

Hawaiʻi’s Mother of the Year, April 1963

Photo by Photo Hawai‘i, Hawai‘i Newspaper Agency, Courtesy of Hawai‘i State Archives.

Governor Burns and First Lady

November 1958

Photo by Warren R. Roll, Star Bulletin, Courtesy of Hawai‘i State Archives.

Family Photo

From left to right: daughter, Mary Beth (Sheenagh) Burns Statts, Mrs. James Burns (Lynette), Mrs. John A Burns Jr., and sons, James and John Jr., Grandchildren: Meredith, 3 (left) and Brendan, 22 months (children of Lynette and James) and Amanda, 4 (daughter of John Jr.), brother, Edward Burns, Governor John A. Burns, and Mrs. Beatrice M. Burns, March 1969

Photo by John Titchen, Star Bulletin, Courtesy of Hawai‘i State Archives.

James Burns adjusts the star atop the Hawaiʻi-grown Norfolk Island pine

December 1967

Photo by Warren R. Roll, Star Bulletin, Courtesy of Hawai‘i State Archives.

Governor Burns with Walter M. Heen and Mrs. Norma Heen, 1963.

Photographed here with the Governor are the parents of the Director of Washington Place, Cameron Heen. Former Judge, lawyer, and politician, Walter M. Heen, remembers Governor Burns hosting receptions and cocktail hours at Washington Place for legislative members and other political leaders as a way to feel comfortable and “at home” with one another. On one occasion, it was him and his wife, Norma’s wedding anniversary and Governor Burns celebrated by giving them carnation leis. This is one of Walter’s favorite photos from his career days as it has his beautiful wife.

Photographer unknown, Courtesy of the Heen Family.


From left to right: Mrs. Burns and Governor Burns with Mrs. Humphrey and Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and Representative S. Matsunaga, August 1967

Photographer unknown, Courtesy of Hawai‘i State Archives.

Meeting the Queen

First Lady welcoming Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother of England, to Hawaiʻi, May 1966.

Photo by Bill Melchior, Courtesy of Hawai‘i State Archives.

Jackie Kennedy and her daughter, Caroline, with Governor Burns at ʻIolani Palace, June 1966.

This was supposedly after JFK was assassinated and she came here to “get away.”  Before the Hawaiʻi State Capitol was built, offices were located in ʻIolani Palace.  This is a photo of them looking out from Governor Burns’ office for the Kamehameha Day Parade.

Photographer unknown, Honolulu Advertiser, Courtesy of Hawai‘i State Archives.

Kennedy, Burns, and Inouye

President John F. Kennedy (left), Governor Burns, and Congressman Daniel K. Inouye, June 1963.

Photographer unknown, Courtesy of Hawai‘i State Archives.

Governor Burns and son, James Burns, with guest of honor

After the opening of the second floor galleries, we wanted to show the final frames to those who were part of this monumental process.  In talking story with family members and friends, Washington Place is learning and collecting even more oral histories on these statehood Governors and memories of Washington Place.  One such example is this photograph of an unidentified “guest of honor”.  In speaking with Former Judge, lawyer, and politician, Walter M. Heen, Washington Place has since identified this man to be David Trask Jr., an influential state legislator and labor leader for Hawaiʻi.

Photo by Photo Hawai‘i, Courtesy of Hawai‘i State Archives.

Newspaper Article

“When you see the places where things happened, history is always more meaningful,” First Lady Beatrice Burns describes in the article discussing the development of educational tours of the home.  The article highlights the students’ experience and shows a photograph of the original portrait of Queen Lili‛uokalani displayed in the State Dining Room until its return to ‛Iolani Palace in the early 1990s.

Citation: Marks, Leanne. “Children’s tour of Washington Place.” Honolulu Star-Bulletin. 15 May 1965, vol 54: no 135: A-12.

View More

Hawaii State Governors

William F. Quinn

In Office 1957 to 1962

George Ariyoshi

In Office 1974 to 1986

John D. Waiheʻe III

In Office 1986 to 1994

Ben Cayetano

In Office 1994 to 2002

Linda Lingle

In Office 2002 to 2010

Neil Abercrombie

In Office 2010 to 2014


Washington Place

320 South Beretania St

Honolulu, HI 96813