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 William Seward “Billy” Burroughs, Jr

William Seward “Billy” Burroughs, Jr

Conroe, Montgomery County, Texas, USA
Death 3 Mar 1981 (aged 33)
Orange City, Volusia County, Florida, USA
Burial Cremated, Ashes scattered, Specifically: Ashes were scattered in Boulder, Colorado. Not too far from the Naropa Institute which Billy's father attended.
Memorial ID 13723383 · View Source
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William Seward Burroughs, Jr. was an American novelist. At the age of twentyone he wrote Speed (published in 1970) and "Kentucky Ham (published in 1973), both autobiographical.

William, jr. was named after his famous father, a popular cult favorite, the writer William S. Burroughs & Joan Vollmer.

Nicknamed "Billy" as a little boy, he lived with his parents and older sister Julie (Joan's daughter from a previous marriage) in Texas, Louisiana, and Mexico City for the first four years of his life.
Drugs influenced his life from the beginning: his mother had been addicted to Benzedrine since before his birth, and his father was a morphine addict. With his parents' need for drugs, they moved frequently to new locations.

On September 6, 1951, in Mexico City, four year old Billy was present in the room where his father accidentally shot his wife through the forehead with a Colt .45 while trying to hit a cocktail glass she had placed on top of her head.

After the death of his mother, William junior was sent to live with his paternal grandparents, Laura Lee and Mortimer P. Burroughs. He never saw his half sister Julie again who was sent to stay with family in Albany.

He had an affectionate relationship with both his grandparents who raised him for a short time in St. Louis, Missouri.
In 1952 Billy and his grandparents moved to Palm Beach, Florida. The Burroughs opened an antique shop and enrolled Billy in the prestigious Palm Beach Private School. His life with his grandparents was a happy one. They were kind and reassuring, loved Billy dearly.

In the Summer of 1961, soon after turning 14, Billy was invited by his father (now a published writer) to live with him in Tangiers, Morocco. Young Billy had only seen his father on three brief occasions before then. Before his stay in Morocco, Billy had idolized his absent father. It was there in Tangiers that Billy was introduced to drugs such as hashish and marijuana. His stay was brief and unpleasant. He was left wondering what his father thought of him. There was little communication between Billy and his father after that disastrous reunion.

Back in Florida with his grandparents once again, Billy gives a detailed account in his second autobiographical book " Kentucky Ham". His experiences in Tangiers were major influences on the direction his life took.

In 1962 Billy's grandfather Mortimer died, and Billy was left with his grandmother Laura Lee, whom he called mother. It is from that point that Billy started his first autobiography "Kentucky Ham". This was a period of deep sadness for both Billy and Laura Lee who was lost without her husband.

Billy began spending most of his time away from home, playing hooky with friends, hitchhiking to Miami, getting drunk on beer , experimenting with the drugs available to affluent Florida teenagers in the early 1960's. He felt very guilty making up soothing stories to his grandmother when he arrived home to explain where he had been and what he had been doing.

Before Billy was fifteen, he realized he had a drug problem. In his book "Speed" he narrates his growing addiction and his time in New York with a friend. His addiction led to two arrests. He was released on bail, thanks to his father's friend, the poet Allen Ginsberg.

Billy once again returned to Florida from New York, he found his grandmother had drifted even more into senility. A few years later she had to be placed in a nursing home in St. Louis.

Laura Lee was aware of her grandson Billy's addiction and had done what she could to help him. Billy however describes his addiction at that point as beyond help.
At seventeen Billy was arrested in Florida, for trying to pass a prescription he had forged for Desoxyn. Following his arrest, Laura Lee contacted her son William Sr., Billy's father, who came to Florida (from London, England) for his son's trial. As a minor Billy was sentenced to four years probation, with a mandatory cure at the Federal Narcotics Farm in Lexington, Kentucky. Billy narrates about his stay at the hospital from 1964 to 1965, in the book "Kentucky Ham". After his stay at the hospital he enrolled at the experimental school in Florida called the "Green Valley School", run by the Reverend George von Hilsheimer , who became a close friend and remained so until Billy's death. Rev. von Hilsheimer provided Billy with some much needed guidance and stability. Even sending Billy to Alaska for a Summer job with other boys from the school.
After his Alaska experience he returned to the Green Valley School, where he met Karen Perry. They married in 1968 but separated in 1974.

Billy now a published writer was no longer on drugs and living on the streets as he had in the past. However he started drinking heavily. It was the reason his marriage ended in 1974. His wife could no longer tolerate his drinking.

The last decade of Billy's life was spent in Boulder, Colorado, in the vicinity of the Naropa Institute, a school of Buddhism, which both his father William, Sr. and family friend Allen Ginsberg were involved in. (It was near that location where Billy's ashes would one day be scattered).

In 1967, Billy suffered a liver collapse and underwent a liver transplant in a Denver hospital. It is in his third autobiographical book, "Prakriti Junction", that he describes the months of hospitalizations and his painful convalescence following his liver transplant. This book begun in 1977 and 1978 but was never completed to Billy's satisfaction. A book called "Cursed from birth" was puplished after Billy's death based on his collected writings of his life and the period before his death.

Aware that his body was rejecting the new liver, Billy moved back to Florida in January of 1981, hoping to heal in the sun.
He was visiting Reverend von Hilsheimer, when he suffered tremendously and his life ended.
He died of liver failure on March 3, 1981. He was 33 years old at the time of his death.

Family Members


See more Burroughs memorials in:

  • Created by: J.A. & D.S.
  • Added: 24 Mar 2006
  • Find A Grave Memorial 13723383
  • J.A. & D.S.
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for William Seward “Billy” Burroughs, Jr (21 Jul 1947–3 Mar 1981), Find A Grave Memorial no. 13723383, ; Maintained by J.A. & D.S. (contributor 46808935) Cremated, Ashes scattered, who reports a Ashes were scattered in Boulder, Colorado. Not too far from the Naropa Institute which Billy's father attended..