Bradford Burns; Professor, Expert on Latin America


Bradford Burns, prolific author of 150 books on Latin America and a popular UCLA history professor for nearly three decades, has died. He was 63.

Burns, who had retired from UCLA in 1993, died Dec. 19 of liver cancer in his Hollywood Hills home, UCLA spokesmen said Friday.

An expert on Brazil and Nicaragua, Burns was singled out for public rebuke by former President Ronald Reagan for his 1987 book “At War in Nicaragua: The Reagan Doctrine and the Politics of Nostalgia.”


After Reagan’s comments won the historian nationwide publicity, including an appearance on “Nightline,” Burns typically shrugged off the attention as his “15 minutes of fame.”

Born in Muscatine, Iowa, Burns earned his degrees at the University of Iowa and Tulane and Columbia universities. He began teaching at Rutgers and the State University of New York at Buffalo.

He joined UCLA’s history department in 1964 and wrote his first book two years later, “The Unwritten Alliance: Rio Branco and Brazilian-American Relations.” The book earned the Bolton Prize and Brazil’s honorary designation in the Order of Rio Branco.

The historian’s last published book was in 1991, “Patriarch and Folk: The Emergence of Nicaragua, 1798-1858.” He had recently completed a history of Iowa, “Kinship With the Land,” which will be published later this year.

From 1979 to 1983, Burns served as the first dean of the honors division of the UCLA College of Letters and Science.

Burns is survived by his mother, Wanda Schwandke Burns; his sister, Karen Burns Kenny, and his longtime companion, David Aguayo.


Two memorial services are planned. The first will be at 3 p.m. on Feb. 4 in the Cathedral Center of St. Paul, 840 Echo Park Ave., Los Angeles. The second is on Feb. 5 at 5 p.m. in the UCLA Faculty Center.