Jim Burgin Brentwood Christmas Conductor Polar Express 2019 2

Jim Burgin portrays the Conductor while reading "The Polar Express" to children during the 2019 Christmas celebration at the John P. Holt Brentwood Library.

James “Jim” Burgin, a longtime Williamson County volunteer who always brought joy to locals at Christmas through live readings, died Feb. 15 at the age of 81. 

Burgin was born on Nov. 1, 1939, in Indianapolis and grew up in Salem, Ind. He received a master’s degree in business administration from Indiana University. He met his wife, Sandy, at IU, and the pair got married in 1960 during their junior year of college.

For 36 years, Burgin worked with MeadWestvaco Corporation, formerly The Mead Paper Corporation. After retiring, he spent 10 years working at the John P. Holt Library, where he shared his passion for books and reading with everyone he met.

James Jim Burgin

James Burgin

His passion for reading led him to volunteer with Friends of the Brentwood Library. As a reader for the Talking Library, Burgin was honored for donating 5,000 hours to the organization.

“Jim was a dedicated advocate for our library and the Friends,” FOBL President Kathy Dooley-Smith said in an email. “He loved the library and we all loved him right back. When I joined the Library Board, he was my first friend, immediately making me feel welcome. We always sat together and he taught me so much. His wisdom, calm voice and kind heart will be missed by many.”

For the past 17 years, children who attended the lighting of the city of Brentwood Christmas tree heard Burgin read The Polar Express dressed as the Conductor. This past Christmas, since he could not read to children in person, the city taped a virtual reading so families could still take part in this annual tradition.

“He had those children riding along with him on that journey to the North Pole. For 17 years he warmed the hearts of families sitting next to a fireplace, listening to the magic in his words,” Brentwood Library Director Susan Earl said in an email. “He will be sorely missed.”

Burgin was said to be a passionate volunteer who worked with many local charities, including Hospice, library programs and the Williamson County Hospital.

An active member of Brentwood United Methodist Church, he served on several committees within the church and was said to be a beloved member of the Genesis Sunday School Class. He was a volunteer for the Sunny Day Club at the church.

Jim Burgin Brentwood Christmas Conductor Polar Express 2019 1

Jim Burgin portrays the Conductor while reading "The Polar Express" to children during the 2019 Christmas celebration at the John P. Holt Brentwood Library.

Burgin also served his country as a military captain in Korea.

Due to COVID-19, Burgin will be interred in the Brentwood United Methodist Church Columbarium on Sunday, Feb. 21, at 4 p.m. The private ceremony will be officiated by Senior Pastor Dr. Davis Chappell and Bishop Joe Pennel, but will be viewable online at 3 p.m. here.

Donations can be mailed in honor of Burgin to Friends of the Brentwood Library, by mail at 8109 Concord Rd., Brentwood 37027, or the Sunny Day Club at Brentwood United Methodist Church, 309 Franklin Rd., Brentwood, 37027. An online guestbook is available at AustinFuneralService.com.

Burgin's final reading as the Conductor can be viewed below (16:05) in last year's virtual Brentwood Christmas tree lighting.

He is survived by his loving wife, Sandy. They were married for 61 years and have three sons, Steve (Rachel), Tim (Karen) and David (Martha), and eight grandchildren, Walker (Allison), Daniel, Laura, Mark (Kelley), Henry, Mason, Owen and Lindsay.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.