Willie D. Burton
OccupationSound engineer
Years active1975 – present

Willie D. Burton is an American production sound mixer. His career has spanned five decades and has included films such as The Shawshank Redemption, Se7en, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.[1] Burton has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Sound or Best Achievement in Sound Mixing a total of seven times, winning twice; he has been nominated for two BAFTA Film Awards for Best Sound, winning once; and he was nominated for one Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film Sound Mixing for his work on Roots.

Early life

Willie D. Burton was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Burton grew up in Alabama, and became fascinated with broadcasting because he lived near a radio station. While attending high school, Burton entered a work-study program in a store that sold and repaired radios and TVs. He became experienced repairing radios, and began to experiment with improving and learning more about the electronics. His attention then moved to sound and sound mixing. His work at the electronic shop fed Burton's fascination with electronics and sound, but he was obstructed by the limited opportunities for African-Americans to work in the field, especially in the Deep South. In the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, Alabama was slow in its movement toward equality in job opportunities. As his motivation and interest grew, Burton made the decision to move to Long Beach, California after high school graduation. Burton attended a trade school and then Compton City College, where he studied electronics technology.


After graduating from Compton City College, Burton worked on sonar technology for the Department of the Navy, but his ultimate goal was to work in broadcasting. He was prevented from accomplishing this goal because he needed to be a union member to work in Hollywood. Finally, in 1969, he made it into the International Sound Technicians union. Burton was the first black man to be officially accepted into the union. This led to an entry-level job on the TV series Land of the Giants. Between TV jobs, which also included work as a boom operator on Medical Center and Gunsmoke, Burton worked as a custodian at a bank.

A friend from one of his TV jobs helped train Burton on sound-mixing equipment. Burton gained an immense amount of interest in sound mixing as he developed and polished his talents. Those who worked with him in Hollywood soon recognized his potential. Burton's big break into the sound-mixing world came in 1975, when he heard that Sidney Poitier was directing the film Let's Do It Again, with Bill Cosby. Poitier agreed to hire Burton. This decision launched him into a career that has spanned five decades. He also became part of the Cinema Audio Society.[2] With seven nominations each, Burton and television producer Quincy Jones are currently the Academy's most-honored African-Americans in the film industry.[3]


Oscar – Nomimated – Best Sound
Oscar - Won - Best Sound Mixing[4][5]
Cinema Audio Society - Won - Outstanding Sound Mixing for Motion Pictures
Satellite Award - Won - Best Sound (Editing & Mixing)
Oscar - Nominated - Best Sound Mixing
Oscar - Nominated - Best Sound Mixing
Cinema Audio Society - Nominated - Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Feature Film
Oscar - Won - Best Sound Mixing[6][7]
BAFTA Film Award - Nominated - Best Sound
Oscar - Nominated - Best Sound Mixing
BAFTA Film Award - Won - Best Sound
Oscar - Nominated - Best Sound Mixing
Oscar - Nominated - Best Sound Mixing
Primetime Emmy - Nominated - Outstanding Film Sound Mixing[8]