Aaron Knox Burrow


Aaron K. Burrow, whose success in the trading of cotton linters assumed strategic importance during World War I, was born in Carroll County, the son of the Reverend Albert Gibson Burrow and Elizabeth Polk Burrow. From age seventeen, when he began work for a Memphis cotton company, Burrow focused on cottonseed products, particularly linters, the short fibers from the cottonseed used primarily in bedding. The outbreak of World War I generated an enormous demand for cotton linters as a foundation for explosives. Burrow headed the linters program–purchasing, assembling the shipments, and transporting them–for E. I. DuPont de Nemours and Company, which soon became the largest manufacturer of high explosives outside Germany. When the United States entered the war, Burrow also assumed responsibility for all purchases of linters by the federal government.

Burrow's business, A. K. Burrow and Company, flourished after the war, capitalizing on the expanding market for cottonseed products in the manufacture of rayon, plastics, and chemicals. The company remained in operation until 1937, when Burrow resumed representation of DuPont. He retired in 1948. Burrow also served as a director of First National Bank of Memphis, later First Tennessee Bank N.A., from 1923 to 1955.

Burrow was active in many civic and philanthropic causes, most notably the development of Rhodes College. He helped finance its move from Clarksville to Memphis during the 1920s, when it was known as Southwestern Presbyterian University, and served on the Board of Trustees for a number of years. In the early 1950s he donated one million dollars for the construction of Burrow Library on the Memphis campus. He was also a major contributor toward construction of the refectory at Rhodes, completed in 1958 and named for his wife, Catherine Walter Burrow (1878-1962). The Burrows were involved in the planning and design of both buildings, which combined innovative interior features and the Collegiate Gothic architecture for which Rhodes is renowned.

Burrow died in 1968 and is buried at Memorial Park in Memphis.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Aaron Knox Burrow
  • Coverage 1871-1968
  • Author
  • Website Name Tennessee Encyclopedia
  • URL
  • Access Date June 21, 2024
  • Publisher Tennessee Historical Society
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 1, 2018