Passing down legacy of timber, memories

Burns Forest Products in Jonesboro was synonymous with the affable, white-haired LSU-loving forester who made his name in the piney woods of north Louisiana. Joe Burns was the owner that managed timber for landowners and served as a wood dealer for the industrial companies in his area from 1962 until his death last November.

Four daughters had been preparing for this transition time and yet people are never prepared to replace a founder, builder and motivator that made everything work.

“Dad always wanted to leave the Tree Farm for the next generation,” said daughter Mary Helen Burns, a CPA who lives in Baton Rouge. But no one was ready to run the business. “We decided to protect the assets and look for someone to work with us.”

With the help of a financial consultant and forester John Russo, who worked with their father, they began the process. They interviewed four different groups after each entity had filled out an extensive questionnaire.

“We were very interested in who we would be working with, where their current lands were, how much land they already managed and how much attention they could pay to our land,” said Burns. “We took one whole day interviewing them. We were very impressed with all four groups and I think any of the four would have done a good job.”

They decided on Ewing Timber to manage their 14,000 acres of land, timber and minerals. They closed the wood dealer part of the operation but Ewing also took over those logging companies interested in joining with them and a few of the office employees.

“We settled on Ewing,” she said, “because their other holdings are in the same areas and they ran a similar business but also — and I don’t want to minimize this — it would be something Dad would have wanted.”

The Burns and Ewing families go way back. Joe Burns and L.C. “Lew” Ewing were ready to get life and business started when the World War II soldiers headed home to Louisiana. They both fulfilled those dreams making Burns Forest Products and Ewing Timber Co. successful forestry businesses headquartered in Jonesboro amidst some of the finest timber in north Louisiana.

They were both civic and industry leaders and their families considered each other friends. So more than 70 years later it is somewhat fitting that after the death of Joe Burns, third generation Brandon Ewing looks after their forestland located in small tracts primarily in Winn, Jackson, Bienville, Lincoln and Webster parishes.

“The two of them were different, but they were both driven,” said Brandon Ewing. “They both had the same ideas, values and morals.”