Smith, an Augusta, Ga., businessman, claimed creation of Burdell in 1927, when he was filling out his enrollment papers. He decided to turn in duplicates on George P. Butler, his high school principal and a staunch University of Georgia alumnus. After writing in George P. Smith got cold feet and finished the entry with the last name Burdell, the maiden name of his best friend's mother.
Smith then added Burdell's name to the class rolls. He even took duplicate tests using Burdell's name, altering the handwriting just enough to disguise his writing and fool the professors into believing Burdell was indeed a student in their classes.
By 1930, George P. Burdell had taken enough tests to "earn" a bachelor's degree from the Institute - he later received his master's degree and he became an official alumnus. At the same time, he has managed to maintain his student status.
During World War II, George P. Burdell served in the armed forces on many fronts, his name appearing around the world. He was listed on the flight crew of a B-17 bomber, flying 12 missions over Europe with the 8th Air Force in England. However, when a Tech graduate became the new operations officer for the crew, he immediately recognized the name on the flight log, and Burdell's flying days were over.
When Georgia Tech computerized its class-registration process in 1969, Burdell signed up for every course - over 3,000 credit hours. And despite subsequent fail-safe procedures to prevent it, he did so again in 1975 and 1980.
The spirit of George P. Burdell remains alive. He continues to post letters to the editor, baffle insurance salesmen, and get paged at football games. He's also displayed a generous nature - his signature has appeared on numerous product rebate checks.