Obituary: Roy Burks — 1953 Wisconsin Rose Bowl Participant

Roy Burks, 88, A Top Intelligence Officer Dies

Archie Roy Burks, a retired intelligence officer who played a central role in developing American intelligence satellites, died in Lancaster, PA on April 14, 2020. He was 88 years old.

Roy Burks was a leading pioneer of America’s Signals and Imagery Intelligence program. Roy worked at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for 30 years. Roy Burks was the cofounder and first director of an interagency office that became one of the most productive and cost effective programs in the history of the Intelligence Community. Later as Director of the Office of SIGNIT Operations, Mr. Burks developed multiple new technical intelligence programs each of which are still producing quality intelligence today. Roy Burks was the payload system technical director for the US’s first satellite imaging system – the Corona program.

Roy Burks was recognized and honored by the CIA in 1997 – as one of 50 “Trailblazers” – the 50 most distinguished CIA officers in the CIA’s first 50 years. Roy Burks was awarded the CIA’s highest service awards including the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, and two Intelligence Medal of Merits.

In 2000, Roy was recognized and honored by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) as one of the first group of 46 NRO “Pioneers” who made significant and lasting contributions to national reconnaissance.

Archie Roy Burks was born April 27, 1931 in Louisville Kentucky. His father was a co-owner of P.I. Burks & Company, an electronics retailer in Louisville. Roy graduated from Manual High School in Louisville where he was class valedictorian, state champ in the 100 yard dash, and one of Louisville’s top football stars. He attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a Masters degree in System Engineering in 1954. Roy was a member of the University of Wisconsin track and football teams. Roy was a starting halfback and special teams player on the University of Wisconsin football team and held several Big Ten records during his playing years. He was an academic all American at the University of Wisconsin. Roy was a starting defensive back for the University of Wisconsin’s 1953 Rose Bowl team that included Heisman trophy winner Alan Ameche.

Following his retirement from the CIA, Roy worked as a Director for GTE and did private consulting work before his final retirement.

Roy Burks is survived by his current wife Joan, his first wife Norma, two sons, a daughter, and six grandchildren.

Roy Burks will be buried at Arlington Memorial Cemetery in Washington D.C.