1917 - 1993

“Try and live your life the way you wish other people would live theirs.”

– Raymond Burr

Raymond Burr was born on May 21, 1917 in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada. While he was a youngster, his father moved the family to China for five years. His parents divorced when he was six and Burr moved with his mother to Vallejo, CA. As a young man, Burr dropped out of school and took odd jobs to support his mother and younger siblings during the Great Depression. He found work as a ranch hand, a deputy sheriff, and even a nightclub singer before beginning his acting career at the Pasadena Playhouse in 1937. Burr made his Broadway debut in 1941, then his film debut in “San Quentin” (1946). He appeared in more than 90 films, including “Rear Window”, “A Place in the Sun”, “The Blue Gardenia”, “A Cry in the Night” – and the western audience release of the science-fiction classic “Godzilla” – before landing the role of defense attorney Perry Mason for 271 episodes of the eponymously titled television series from 1957-1966. The landmark role won Burr Emmy Awards in both 1959 and 1961 for Outstanding Lead Performance by an Actor in a Series. Though he had been married briefly in 1948, in 1960 Burr met his long-term partner Robert Benevides. One year after “Perry Mason” went off the air Burr returned to television with the hugely popular television drama “Ironside”, which ran for 195 episodes from 1967-1975. Collectively, Burr’s two popular television vehicles made him one of the most enduring stars in the history of the medium. Burr continued to work, starting with the new series “Kingston: Confidential” in 1976, followed by several TV films, miniseries, and guest spots. In 1985, Burr resurrected his Perry Mason character for a total of 26 highly rated television films. Off screen he was a man of varied interests from cultivating orchids to gourmet cooking to owning an art gallery to being a wine connoisseur. Eventually he even opened his own vineyard. Burr was also a well-known philanthropist, giving enormous amounts of his salary to various causes and organizations such as the USO. After a battle with liver cancer, Raymond Burr died at age 76 on September 12, 1993 in Geyserville, CA. He left his $32-million estate solely to Benevides, his partner of 33 years.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated Canada United States China Fiji

Era/Epoch Cold War (1945-1991) Information Age (1970-present)

Field(s) of Contribution





Commemorations & Honors

Emmy Award Winner for Best Actor in Perry Mason (1959)

Hollywood Walk of Fame Star For Television (1960)

Emmy Award Winner for Best Actor in Perry Mason (1961)

Honorary Doctorate Bestowed by Sonoma State University (1993)

Honorary Doctorate Bestowed by the University of Colorado (1993)

Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum Circular Garden Honoring Burr (1996)

Commemorative Canada Post Canadians in Hollywood Stamp Issued (2008)

Posthumous Canadian Legends Award Recipient (2009)

Posthumous Canada Walk of Fame Star (2009)

Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum Display in the Great Hall of Shells (2012)


Original Biography Author
Victor Salvo
Biography Edited By
Owen Keehnen
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell