Burdett Loomis, longtime KU political professor and mentor to students, dies at 76

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Burdett Loomis, a longtime professor in political science at the University of Kansas and a fixture of state politics, has died. He was 76.

Loomis, an emeritus professor known to colleagues and friends as “Bird,” was remembered as a favorite professor and an insightful political scientist. He worked at KU for more than 40 years.

“He will be remembered, and missed,” the political science department said.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said she was sad to hear of Loomis’ death and called him a friend.

“Burdett was a fixture and a voice of reason in Kansas politics for decades, and a mentor to countless political science students at Kansas University,” Kelly, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter. “My thoughts are with his family during this difficult time.”

Loomis was recently diagnosed with cancer, according to the Lawrence Journal-World and Kansas Public Radio.

A few days ago, Rep. Sharice Davids, a Democrat representing Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District, gave a speech on the House floor about Loomis, asking that others join her in hoping for his speedy recovery.

Davids said Loomis for decades was KU’s Washington semester coordinator, “helping students gain real-world experience at various organizations and congressional offices here in D.C.” She also said he had been a trusted friend and adviser to many Kansas officials, adding that she was “personally grateful for his guidance” throughout her time in Congress.

“And his unconditional dedication to the state of Kansas and the well-being of its democracy,” Davids said.

Loomis was often quoted by news organizations for his political insight, including in The Star as recently as April.

He joined KU as an assistant professor in 1979 after having worked as assistant professor at Knox College in Illinois and as a visiting assistant professor for a summer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He went on to hold other positions, including chairman of KU’s Department of Political Science and director of administrative communication for then-Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

On Sunday, lawmakers, political scientists and former students offered their condolences and recounted memories of Loomis on social media.

Among them was Rep. Brandon Woodard, a Lenexa Democrat, who said Loomis believed in him before he believed in himself as a student leader and later as a state legislator.

“Bird’s passing is heartbreaking and one of those once-in-a-generation losses for the Jayhawk family and Kansas,” he wrote on Twitter.

In a message to the university community Monday, Chancellor Douglas Girod said the “outpouring of love and respect” for Loomis since he died has been remarkable and confirms his affect on students, elected officials and others.

“Simply put, it’s hard to imagine the University of Kansas — past or present — without Bird,” Girod wrote. “He stands among the giants in KU history, and his passing is a loss for the entire community.”

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