George P. Burdell, Legend Of The Man Who Never Existed

The legend of George p burdell

Oh, The story of George P Burdell. This is the most elaborate & difficult prank I’ve heard of. The amount of work it required from prankster William Edgar “Ed” Smith to create a person who never existed is simply mind-blowing.

He pulled off creating a fake human being and in doing so, created a legend. One that ended up with a college degree, flying 12 missions over Europe in a World War 2 bomber, getting married, sitting on the board of mad magazine, leading the vote for Time magazine’s person of the year and much more which we’ll get to in a few minutes.

Image of the fictitious George P Burdell
George P Burdell


In 1927, Ed Smith was accidentally sent two registration forms for his enrollment at Georgia Tech University in Atlanta, Georgia. He decided it would be an epic practical joke to enroll this fictitious person along side his enrollment. This would turn out to be the beginning of years worth of double work for William “Ed” Smith.

As soon as Burdell was accepted, Smith signed him up for all the same classes he had. Smith, with the help of friends, would do all schoolwork twice, changing the content and handwriting slightly to avoid professors catching on to the sham. When he had a test, he would take it twice and then turn it in under both names.

By 1930, Burdell had earned his bachelor’s degree and, only a few years later, received his master’s. He became an official alumnus, even though his name has remained on the active student rolls ever since!

Image of George P. Burdell's First Diploma from Georgia Tech University
George P. Burdell’s First Diploma from Georgia Tech University

Since then, Burdell has never strayed far from Tech. He was registered for more than 3,000 hours of classes in 1969 and, in 1975, was registered for every class in the spring semester.

He was named a Regents’ Professor in 1971. Throughout the years, he’s been named host of countless balls and dances on campus. He’s evidently lettered in both football and basketball. There was a time — even recently — when you couldn’t find a petition at Tech that didn’t have George P. Burdell’s name on it.

George P Burdell WW2 Veteran

During World War 2, service members continued the hoax, with Burdell’s name appearing on various fronts. For example, he was listed on the flight crew of a B-17 Bomber, flying twelve missions over Europe with the 8th Air Force in Europe, until a Georgia Tech graduate became the new operations officer, recognized the name on the flight log, and ended the charade.

He’s also appeared in the Korean War, Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm and in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.


In 1958, members of the senior class of Agnes Scott College announced the wedding engagement of Burdell and fictional Agnes Scott student Ramona Cartwright in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The 50th wedding anniversary, of “Mr. and Mrs. George P. Burdell from Atlanta” was acknowledged on the September 23, 2006 broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion. You can hear it by clicking below.

Mad Magazine

The publishers of Mad Magazine listed Burdell as a member of its board of directors from 1969 until 1981.

Time Magazine

When Time magazine was attempting to select their Person of the Year for 2001, George Burdell was the leading candidate holding 56.8% of the vote. Then someone on the staff of the magazine figured it out and removed him from the running. New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani was honored that year.

Image showing George burdell in the lead for time magazine's person of the year in 2001.

Criminal Record

On November 27, 2014, George P. Burdell allegedly hacked into the University of Georgia’s online master calendar to post a new event titled “Get Ass Kicked by GT” during the time of the annual Georgia Tech football game. This prank was meant to celebrate the 100-year old tradition of Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate. While the author of the new calendar event was marked as George P. Burdell, undergraduate Computer Engineering student, Ryan Pickren, was ultimately arrested and indicted for the crime

Space Exploration

June 25, 2019, George P. Burdell’s name flew engraved on the Prox-1 satellite mission designed and built by the Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering at Georgia Tech. His name is listed along with all the other students who worked on the mission.


Burdell is a campus icon at Georgia Tech, incoming freshmen are introduced to him as one of the greatest alumni to graduate from the school. George P. Burdell is often paged over the public address system during football games and also at airports, bars, and hotels.

Georgia Tech students or alumni often use his name as an alias when they don’t want to disclose their real name.

There is also a store in Georgia Tech’s student center named “Burdell’s” pictured below.

Burdell store, named after George burdell
Burdell’s circa 1995

He has a Facebook page and a Linkedin profile.

President Barack Obama gave him a shout-out during a speech at McCamish Pavilion on the Tech campus in 2015. (“Now, I understand George P. Burdell was supposed to introduce me today. But nobody could find him.”)

Notable Pranks

  • One of the first pranks to use Burdell’s name came after someone had been rejected by a fraternity. That really pissed him off. So he went out and ordered a truckload of furniture to be delivered c.o.d. to that fraternity. As you would figure, the order was made by George P. Burdell. LOL.
  • In 1969, Georgia Tech computerized its class registration, believing it had successfully found a way to keep George from registering for class that semester. As it turned out, hackers registered him for every class in the Institute that quarter, a heavy load at over 3,000 credit hours. And despite subsequent fail-safe procedures to prevent it, he did so again in 1975 and 1980.
  • Burdell is most recently listed as a production assistant for the South Park website,

In Conclusion

Gorge P. Burdell is now a Georgia Tech University legend and it all started because Ed Smith was in a joking mood the day he filled out his enrollment for college.

In a 1977 Atlanta newspaper interview, Smith said that he originally intended to enroll his Academy of Richmond County principal, George P. Butler, but instead changed the last name to Burdell, the maiden name of his best friend’s mother.

Ed Smith is a legend himself

The sheer determination shown by Ed Smith & friends is astounding to me. It’s hard enough doing your college assignments once. The thought of doing it all twice as a prank is simply insane.

I guess that’s why George P. Burdell has gone down in history as a legend, but the true legend isn’t Burdell, it’s William Edgar “Ed” Smith

If you’ve made it this far why not share it so the people you occasionally care about, you know, your family and friends can also learn about George P. Burdell. If you’re not willing to do it for them, then share it for me, I would really appreciate it.

Then after you share it go read about the WW2 meme Kilroy was here or the 21 Korean War vets who refused to return to the United States.