City officials remember Burns as trailblazer for black leadership
Councilman and mayor recalled for 'heart of gold'
By Tom Pelton
January 14, 2003
Workers draped black bunting above the front door of City Hall and lowered the flag to half-staff yesterday to mark the death of Clarence H. Du Burns, the first black mayor of Baltimore.
Burns, 84, died of kidney failure at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center
on Sunday, about 16 years after the former City Council president ascended
to the mayor's office to replace
William Donald Schaefer, who was elected governor.
Although Burns served as mayor for only 11 months, before being beaten
in the 1987 Democratic primary by Kurt L. Schmoke, several city officials
praised yesterday Burns' contributions
to the city as a pioneer for African-Americans seeking higher office.
"Mayor Burns laid the foundation for many of us who are now in politics.
He opened the door and allowed us to get involved in local government,"
said City Council President Sheila
Dixon. "He always said to me, 'The key is when you give someone your word, it's your bond. And if you stick to that, you will always do well.'"
Mayor Martin O'Malley said yesterday that the city will find a way to honor Burns in the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade planned for Monday.
"Du Burns had a heart of gold. He believed strongly in the people of
East Baltimore and the people of this entire city," said O'Malley. "He
never tired of doing things for people. That's
what made him happy. To top it off, Du never lost his sense of humor, even after all those years in public office. He was a humble man who achieved great things. He will be sorely
Services for Burns will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5300 N. Charles St. He will be buried at New Cathedral Cemetery, 4300 Old Frederick Road.
Afterwards, friends and relatives are invited to gather at the Du Burns Arena, 1301 S. Ellwood Ave.
A public viewing is scheduled from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow at the Vaughn Greene Funeral Home, 4905 York Road.
During a City Council meeting last night, the council unanimously passed
a resolution honoring "the passing of a singular man whose imprint will
forever remain on the social, political
and historical panorama that is Baltimore City."
Burns served on the council from 1971 to 1987, becoming its first black president in 1986.
City Councilwoman Paula Johnson Branch was one of several council members
who spoke publicly about Burns' contributions at last night's meeting,
saying Burns was like a father to
her. She said Burns gave her away at her wedding and acted as a mentor for her political career.
Branch recalled several words of advice that he passed along to her, including "Make two friends every day, because you're going to lose some daily."
"He touched a lot of people in a very positive way," said City Councilman Robert Curran, who wore a yellow "Du Burns for Mayor" cap from Burns' 1987 campaign.
Copyright © 2003, The Baltimore Sun