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Charles Ryland Burnett III


1956 - 2018 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Charles Ryland Burnett III Obituary

Charles Ryland Burnett III, of Houston, Texas, died January 17, 2018 in a helicopter crash while traveling to his ranch in Folsom, New Mexico. Mr. Burnett was the only child of Charles and Miriam Weston Burnett of Richmond, Virginia and Toronto, Canada respectively, both of whom preceded him in death. Mr. Burnett attended Rice University and the University of Richmond. and maintained a residence in Houston.
A prominent businessman, philanthropist, and record-breaking sportsman, Mr. Burnett was a larger-than-life figure known for his fearlessness, generosity, and limitless ideas. He started companies, competed in events, and supported worthy causes on several continents. And he delighted in treating family and friends to memorable parties and adventures.
An accomplished sportsman, Mr. Burnett in 1999 set an offshore powerboat water speed record and earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. In 2009, he broke the land speed record for a steam-powered car, which had stood for over a century. He called the vehicle " the fastest kettle in the world." Mr. Burnett credited his love for all things mechanical to his father, who raced hydroplanes and restored Hudson automobiles.
As a businessman, Mr. Burnett was an innovator in the night club, restaurant, and clean energy industries, among others.
Following in the footsteps of his beloved mother, Mr. Burnett was a passionate philanthropist dedicated to a wide variety of causes, including medical research, education, and English hedgehogs. He supported cancer research at the University of Virginia, endowed a chair in neurology at Houston's McGovern Medical School and another chair in ethical leadership at the University of St Thomas in Houston. Because of his keen interest in the use of mathematics to study the spread of disease, he endowed two professorial chairs at the Yale School of Public Health. The work he supported at Yale helped improve childhood vaccination programs in the United Kingdom, curtailed the spread of the Ebola virus in Liberia, and produced innovative treatments for cancer, including glioblastoma - the cause of his mother's death.
The helicopter crash that took Mr. Burnett's life also claimed four of his friends: Jamie Coleman Dodd, Paul Cobb, and Roy and Heather Bennett. Mr. Bennett was a reform-minded political leader in Zimbabwe, Africa, and an opponent of former President Robert Mugabe. Mr. Burnett had supported pro-democracy movements in Africa for several years. The only survivor of the crash was Andra Cobb, Mr. Burnett's girlfriend and Mr. Cobb's daughter.
Mr. Burnett will be remembered for his mischievous twinkle, immense generosity, intellectual curiosity, strong determination to follow his star, and lifelong loyalty to friends and family.
A private interment - memorial service to follow.
Published in Houston Chronicle from Jan. 27 to Jan. 28, 2018
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