News from the Tennessee Valley Columnists


Chuck Burton gave 'fine scars'

We met Dr. Chuck Burton shortly after Regina and I moved to Decatur nearly 30 years ago. We were seated across the table from him at a civic-affair dinner which a lot of medical people attended.

Chuck had many opinions he shared freely.

He didn't like newspapers, he said, especially liberal newspapers. To him, The Daily fell into that category.

"We need to steer clear of going to him," I said to Regina, after his critique of the press that night. "He might get overly excited and forget we were patients."

I was reading the obituaries in the newspaper Wednesday and saw his name, Charles Thomas Burton, M.D.

I glanced down at the jagged scar between by left thumb and index finger. I hadn't steered clear of him. For years, he was one of two dermatologists in Decatur. Like Dr. Joe Backe, he stayed booked.

Chuck was different, and I liked him for that. He forgave me for being a newspaper editor, and I forgave him for not liking the press.

But he never gave up his opinions, or preaching the virtues of the great outdoors. He loved living in the Bankhead National Forest and on his ranch in the Big Sky Country of Montana.

During an office visit, he said the place on my hand looked suspicious and needed to come off. He was right.

Looking at the scar last week brought back the memory of him cutting away the squamous cell cancer, his back blocking my view of what he was doing.

Finally, he said he was ready to stitch together the gap he created with his scalpel. While stitching, he regaled me with his escapades as a MASH doctor in Vietnam.

Later, I teased him that he gave me a MASH scar. He grabbed my hand, looked at it, and said seriously, "I thought I was giving you a pretty scar."

Many area residents have a similar until-the-end link to Chuck. He freed thousands of us from skin cancer or the threat of a suspicious spot going bad.

Tom Wright is executive editor.

Tom Wright Tom Wright
DAILY Executive Editor

Leave feedback
on this or

Email This Page