Martin Parks Burks graduated from Washington College in 1870 -- the final year of Lee's presidency. In 1872 he received his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. He joined the Washington and Lee University law faculty in 1899. When Dean Vance resigned in 1903, Burks was named dean. His election to the deanship marked the beginning of an era of stability in the leadership of the Law School. More faculty were added. A limited number of scholarships became available. The enrollment climbed to 207 by 1911. Gradual curriculum changes and progress toward higher standards were made. In 1906 the trustees authorized that the law degree require two years and the form of the degree was changed from B.L. to LL.B. By 1908 the number of credits requisite for college entrance was made a requirement for admission to the Law Department. In 1912 Dean Burks suggested that, while the two-year course be continued, an optional three-year program be offered. In 1917 Burks resigned from the law school to accept an appointment to the State Supreme Court of Appeals. He served there until 1928, the year of his death.
To the law students, Burks was a father and counselor as much as he was a dean and teacher. It was natural that he came to be called "Daddy Burks," not only at W&L, but throughout legal circles in the state of Virginia. The Burks Scholars, the Burks Moot Court Competition and the Burks Senate of the Delta Theta Phi law fraternity are all W&L institutional recognitions of "Daddy Burks."