Daniel Ray Burns, age 69, passed away Sunday, December 20, 2020, at Morristown Hamblen Hospital in Morristown, Tennessee. Dan’s unexpected and untimely passing came after a brief illness and hospitalization. Dan was born on May 23, 1951, in Kettering, Ohio, to Roy E. Burns and Naomi Ruth Messer Burns. He graduated from Fairmont East High School in 1970 and was recruited to play basketball and baseball at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee.
Danny, as he was known to his teammates, was a standout in the blue and gray for four years. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1974 and remained at LMU as an admissions counselor. In 1976 he joined his baseball head coach and mentor, Dean Bailey, in the coaching ranks -- first as an assistant and then he succeeded his mentor as head coach in 1981. He remained at the helm of LMU baseball until 1987, when he stepped into the role of athletics director and director of campus and community recreation. In 1995, Dan returned to coaching, taking over the LMU softball program and served as head coach for 16 years. He recruited and coached 25 all-conference players, one Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-American and two Daktronic All-Americans. His combined coaching record was 664-559. Dan also taught physical education classes for LMU and the J. Frank White Academy. In 2012, he became the director of athletic development and remained in that position until his retirement in 2019. He was inducted into the LMU Athletes Hall of Fame in 2001. Dan earned a master’s degree in health from Union College in 1981.
Along his LMU journey, Dan met and married his wife of 38 years, Regina Sawyers Burns. Dan and Regina became part of the fabric of LMU as they raised their three kids, Joshua, Victoria and Gavin, practically on campus. Dan never met a stranger and greeted everyone with a twinkle in his eye and a wide grin. Dan’s laughter was ever-present and contagious. Over his 45 years as an employee and half a century associated with the University, he built lasting friendships with students, players, alumni, faculty, staff and administrators. Dan would bend your ear with the charm and wit of a gifted storyteller, recounting stories from the glory days of LMU athletics. As a coach, he did whatever he needed to do to build his program, whether that was mowing the grass, driving the bus or dragging the infield. He leaves a legacy as one of the greatest ambassadors LMU has ever had.
While Dan bled blue and gray, his heart belonged to family and friends. No matter how busy his life was at LMU, Dan made sure his family knew that they came first. He supported his children in their athletic and academic pursuits, and never let them leave the house without checking their oil and tires on their cars. And he would always remind them to “Watch your speed,” as they were heading out. Taking care of his family was the most important thing to him and his Railsplitter pride was no match for the pride he took in the lives that his children have built for themselves. Dan and Regina are members of Pump Springs Baptist Church.
Outside of his family, Dan loved to watch sports, in person or on a screen, especially with his close friends. Football Saturdays and Sundays in the fall were spent on his back porch watching game after game. He enjoyed playing golf with his sons and his many friends, family trips to the beach and spending time with his grandchildren. The life of any party, Dan was always surrounded by people. Whether you called him Dan, Danny, Burns, Burnsie or Coach – Dan was always a friend you could count on.
Dan was preceded in death by his parents, Roy E. Burns and Naomi Ruth Messer Burns. He is survived by his wife, Regina; children Joshua (Lauren) Burns, Victoria (Derek) Voiles and Gavin Burns and girlfriend Shelby Campbell; grandchildren Connor and Eleanor; and sister Carlena (Steve) Burns Riley.
Due to the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases, the family may not be present during the visitation. Receiving of friends will take place on Saturday, December 26 from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. A graveside service will follow at 2 p.m. in the Harrogate Cemetery with Pastor Scott Cannon presiding and music provided by Pump Springs Praise Team. Pallbearers include sons Josh and Gavin Burns, son-in-law Derek Voiles, grandson Connor, longtime friends Troy Poore and David Hamilton. Face coverings are required at both the receiving of friends and the graveside service. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Coach Dan Burns Endowed Scholarship fund at LMU.
The Arnett & Steele Valley Chapel is honored to be serving the Burns Family.
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