Tommy Burdette could never be on time for anything — but when a difficulty emerged in the life of somebody important to him, he was early with a response.
The 57-year-old Burdette lived unapologetically, aligning himself with the Warlocks Motorcycle Club — a group that prides itself for having outlaw roots. Yet the man known to his peers as “Tommy” was gracious and hardworking — devoted to his sons, his relationship with God and girlfriend B.J. Ferry, who was frequently seen riding with him.
Burdette, who was vice president of the Warlocks’ MC Lakelands chapter, died in a wreck on Saturday that also took the life of chapter president John Ruley Jr.
Burdette’s passion for the open road and penchant for embracing the freedom offered by his bike led to some memorable occasions for the Anderson native.
On his way back from a visit to another chapter, Burdette and his fellow Warlocks were driving through Clemson, when a traffic light changed to red.
“As they approached the intersection, guys up front slowed down. One of the guys looked in the mirror horrified to see Tommy hadn’t slowed down — he’s coming at full speed,” the Rev. Dennis Reynolds, state elder of Bikers for Christ, said during Burdette’s Thursday funeral. “They braced for impact and when Tommy realized what has happening, he laid down on the brakes, slid right through the motorcycles and landed in the intersection.”
The anecdote was met with laughs, as it fit so perfectly into the arc of Burdette’s life. In fact, laughter outweighed tears throughout the afternoon, as members of clubs from as far away as New York and Texas made the pilgrimage to Greenwood.
A skilled, self-taught guitarist, Burdette played the instrument in a Christian rock band. Music was a major part of his life, and several songs rang throughout the Harley Funeral Home chapel in tribute to him, including Kid Rock’s “Only God Knows Why,” “Believe,” by Brooks and Dunn and Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
“But Tommy was that guy who would give you the shirt off his back. His last nickel. A place to stay. And never asked for anything in return,” Reynolds said. “And Tommy was one of those guys who wouldn’t let folks know he was hurting himself. When he was having problems, he would rather help other people.”
Burdette’s Warlocks cut-off vest hung next to his casket.
When he wasn’t riding, Burdette worked at Ascend Performance Materials, where plant manager Hal McCord said he conducted himself professionally at all times.
Service for Tommy Burdette, a member of the Lakelands Warlocks Motorcycle Club, was May 10, 2018 at Harley Funeral Home.
McCord sent a note to employees on Sunday after learning of Burdette’s death — which Reynolds read at the funeral.
“Tommy was a humble, polite person who was always willing to step up and help his teammates. He never missed an opportunity to say ‘thank you,’ even for the smallest of things,” McCord wrote. “He will be missed by all of us here at Ascend.”
Following the service, a caravan of bikes led Burdette’s casket to Garden of Memories cemetery in Belton.
“He was a good provider, working hard to take care of his family and his friends,” the Rev. Jay Pruitt said, who first met Burdette when he was a “probate” — or a prospective club member.
“After he patched in, we had time to talk and we got to know one another better,” he said. “He’d go out of his way to help, even inviting the homeless into his own home during storms.”