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Roger V. Burton

  • Birthday: April 30
Date of passing: 
November 30, 2018

Obituary

Obituary: 

Roger V. Burton was a jazz musician, developmental research psychologist, and television actor. He began as a professional jazz trombonist at the age of 11, playing in big bands and on studio film soundtracks. Earning himself the nickname "Schoolboy" for doing homework between set breaks, he started college at University of Southern California at the age of 16 and graduated with a BA and BM in music, as well as an MA in Sciences.

Roger V. Burton was a jazz musician, developmental research psychologist, and television actor. He began as a professional jazz trombonist at the age of 11, playing in big bands and on studio film soundtracks. Earning himself the nickname "Schoolboy" for doing homework between set breaks, he started college at University of Southern California at the age of 16 and graduated with a BA and BM in music, as well as an MA in Sciences.

For the last couple of decades, he worked in national & international television commercials, television shows, and films. He played Philips on Fox's The Cool Kids, Zach Galifianakis' father-in-law on Baskets and had roles on Shameless, The Clapper, My Name is Earl, Fargo, Super Clyde, American Body Shop, Monk, House, The George Lopez Show, and Up All Night, and appeared on American Idol, Good Morning America, and The Tonight Show. He also starred in upcoming short film Old Guy alongside Peri Gilpin (Frasier), produced by his daughters' film company Five Sisters Productions.

He played with Peggy Lee, Andre Previn, Nat King Cole, Johnny Ray, Frankie Laine, the Lennie Niehaus Octet, The Ink Spots, the Chuck Cabot Band, Dick Pierce Band, was a regular on Ernst Gold studio recordings for films, as well as The Hoagy Carmichael Show on NBC. After getting informal lessons from a friend, Charles Mingus, he switched to the bass and to playing in smaller combos.

Following his writing a response to a psychology study that claimed musicians were irresponsible, he was invited to pursue graduate studies in the field of psychology, and given a full scholarship to Harvard University. Burton became a developmental psychology researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health, with a specialty in the development of morality. He worked with researcher Jean Piaget in Switzerland in 1967, and Burton's work, especially his research with John Whiting, continues to influence the field. Publications include: "Resistance to temptation in relation to sex of child, sex of experimenter, and withdrawal of attention," "Differential movie-viewing behavior of male and female viewers," "Effects of baby walkers on motor and mental development in human infants," and "Generality of honesty reconsidered." He was also a consulted expert for news stories dealing with issues of morality, father-absent homes, and gender roles regarding viewer influence related to media.

Burton was invited to become a full professor at SUNY Buffalo in Moral Development and Childhood Social Development, and he took the job because he wanted to be an equal parent to his five daughters. A feminist advocate, he toured in the early 70s with his wife (novelist and screenwriter Gabrielle Burton) as opening speakers for Gloria Steinem, talking about their commitment as parents to defining gender roles and housework more equally. Burton was politically engaged in civil rights and gender equality marches from the 1960s through the current day, and he also served as a poll worker with his strong belief in voting rights for all Americans.

A distinguished professor, he also worked on cross-cultural studies with psychologist Yoshimasa Nakasato in Japan, and he launched a department of psychology in the University of Kuala Lumpur as a sibling school program with UB. After a full career as a professor in Buffalo, he retired to accompany his wife to Los Angeles, where she was screenwriting. There, he began his third act with a new career: as an actor in film and television.

Outside of work, he and his wife believed that having adventure as a family was possible and important, and with their five daughters they backpacked through India and southeast Asia, bicycled and camped through Europe, followed the Donner Party trail for his wife's book research, hitch-hiked across Alaska. Ten years ago, he and his wife did a yoga-service trip with the GO Campaign to Africa, climbing to the base camp of Mt. Kilimanjaro at 80 years old.

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Roger V. Burton

Roger V. Burton

Photo credit: 
Burton Family

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