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Burke family has a legacy of public service

Logan Burke (pictured left), Barbara, Todd and Vivian Burke

Burke family has a legacy of public service
February 08
04:00 2018

For the last 40 years, local residents have been casting their votes for members of the Burke family.

Winston-Salem Mayor Pro Tempore Vivian Burke first ran in 1977, winning her seat to represent the Northeast Ward on the Board of Aldermen, which is now known as the Winston-Salem City Council. She was one of the first two African-American women elected to the board; the other being Dr. Virginia Newell, who was also elected that year.

The Charlotte native had a longtime interest in politics, including being involved with he NAACP in high school with Kelly Alexander as adviser. Alexander would later go on to become national NAACP chair. Burke  was a leader in the Democratic Party  and was Forsyth County manager on the 1972 campaign of Rep. Shirley Chisholm, who was the first black candidate for a major political party’s presidential nomination.

When Burke, who was a school guidance counselor, ran in 1977, she went door to door  until late at night. She did so much walking, she wore out two pairs of shoes to the white of their heels.

“We’re the type of people in my family that we believe that hard work gets good results, and every morning I would get up and I would go out and I would knock on doors,” she said.

Burke said she brought diversity to management in city government by pushing to have qualified African-Americans in positions of power. She served as longtime chairwoman of the Public Safety Committee, bringing major changes to the local police department like a Citizens’ Police Review Board. She also pushed to have women recognized and started the Outstanding Women Leaders award.

She said her electoral success was due to hard work, loyalty, dedication, not making promises she can’t keep and working hard to do what she says she’ll do.

She said her late husband was also a big help as an organizer on the campaign and someone who knew many people in the community from his job as a longtime educator. Logan Burke decided to run for office himself in 1986 and won a seat in the N.C. House of Representatives, which he held until 1990, when he didn’t seek re-election because he grew tired of the back and forth travels to Raleigh and wanted to devote more time to his job.

Logan’s legislative accomplishments include implementing Minority/Woman Business Enterprise (M/WBE) participation requirements and creating District A, which is designed to allow for the election of two black Forsyth County commissioners, and ensuring that funds for Winston-Salem State University’s Anderson Center made it into the budget.

The Burkes’ son Todd Burke said his father is remembered fondly by his students who credit him for their success.

“The thing my father is known for, first and foremost, is an air of dignity and integrity and the manner in which he carried himself as a gentleman,” he said.

Todd Burke has a list of accomplishments of his own. He was the first black male prosecutor in the city in 1987. He became the youngest resident Superior Court judge in the state after he was appointed to the position by Gov. Jim Hunt. He became the first black senior resident Superior Court judge for Forsyth County in 2015.

“This is my hometown and I can think of no finer way to impact the community where I live than serving as a judge and having the ability to level the playing field,” he said. “… At the end of the day, justice is blind and everyone should be treated fairly when they walk into the courthouse.”

He’s been on the ballot, too, as he was elected or re-elected to the position three times, though he never ran a campaign or raised money because he’s never had an opponent.

Todd’s wife, Barbara Burke, is preparing to be the latest member of the family to grace a ballot as she runs for school board. She’s currently an assistant principal at Carver High School and has more than 30 years experience as an educator in the local school system.

She’s running in District 1, which will have a vacancy on the school board, since Victor Johnson is not running for re-election.  She said she’s hoping to help schools like Carver and create more equality between schools.

“I believe because of my experiences, I have gained a great deal of knowledge and a clear insight about how we can affect education in a more positive and equitable way,” she said.

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Todd Luck

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