Both pride and ego go with the office of governor of California. After World War II, when our state began its rise to the most populous in the nation, four governors--Earl Warren, Goodwin Knight, Edmund (Pat) Brown and Ronald Reagan--privately but seldom publicly gave credit to the person who, more than any other, moved their programs into laws. He was Hugh Burns, longtime state Senate president pro tem and chairman of its Rules Committee.
Had he lived in Elizabethan times, Burns could well have served in Parliament. In "Hamlet," Shakespeare's central character remembered Yorick as "a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy." That was "Hughie." When poet Ben Jonson wrote of "endearing charms," that too was Hughie.
Hugh Burns had no enemies. And he operated on his own, no staff.
With unusual astuteness, he looked on both sides of the Senate aisle at the state Capitol as his special constituency. When he saw close associates of stature and ability forced to retire, it saddened him. That was why he opposed reapportionment.
Without an equal in California legislative history, Hugh Burns performed his tasks superbly and kept his colleagues as enduring friends--with grace and humor.