Yvonne Brathwaite Burke

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Yvonne Burke
Yvonne burke.jpg
Member of the Amtrak Board of Directors
Assumed office
January 1, 2013
Nominated by Barack Obama
Preceded by New seat
Member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
from the 2nd district
In office
December 1992 – December 1, 2008
Preceded by Kenneth Hahn
Succeeded by Mark Ridley-Thomas
Member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
from the 4th district
In office
January 3, 1979 – December 1980
Preceded by James Hayes
Succeeded by Deane Dana
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 28th district
In office
January 3, 1975 – January 3, 1979
Preceded by Alphonzo Bell
Succeeded by Julian Dixon
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 37th district
In office
January 3, 1973 – January 3, 1975
Preceded by Lionel Van Deerlin
Succeeded by Jerry Pettis
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 63rd district
In office
January 1967 – January 3, 1973
Preceded by Don Allen
Succeeded by Julian Dixon
Personal details
Born Perle Yvonne Watson
(1932-10-05) October 5, 1932 (age 85)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Louis Brathwaite (m. 1957; div. 1964)
William Burke (m. 1972)
Children Autumn
Education University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Los Angeles (BA)
University of Southern California (JD)

Yvonne Brathwaite Burke (born October 5, 1932) is a politician from Los Angeles, California, United States.[1] She was the first African-American woman to represent the West Coast in Congress. She served in congress from 1973 until the end of 1978. She was the Los Angeles County Supervisor representing the 2nd District (1992–2008).[2] She has served as the Chair three times (1993–94, 1997–98, 2002–03). Her husband is William Burke, a prominent philanthropist and creator of the Los Angeles Marathon.[3]

On December 1, 2008, she retired from the Board of Supervisors and was replaced by Mark Ridley-Thomas.

On Thursday, March 29, 2012, she was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve on the Amtrak Board of Directors.[4][5]

Early life[edit]

Born Perle Yvonne Watson on October 5, 1932, in Los Angeles to James A. Watson and the former Lola Moore.[6][7] She married William A. Burke in Los Angeles on June 14, 1972. Their daughter Autumn Burke was born on November 23, 1973.[6][7][8]

Burke attended the University of California, Berkeley from c. 1949 to 1951 before receiving a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1953.[9] She subsequently earned a J.D. from the University of Southern California Law School in 1956.[10]

Early political career[edit]

Prior to representing the 2nd District, Burke served as Vice-Chairperson of the 1972 Democratic National Convention[11] (she was the first African-American to hold that position), represented the 4th District (1979–80), was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives initially representing portions of Los Angeles (1973–79), and was a member of the California State Assembly representing Los Angeles' 63rd District (1966–1972). Many of her early legislative efforts centered around juvenile issues and limiting garnishment of wages.

A lot of what she achieved influenced her to convince others to run after their dream, so she went to children's hospitals and encouraged some of the children to never give up. She said: "No matter what is in your way never give up and chase after your dream, with no interference of discouragement."

Terms in U.S. Congress[edit]

Yvonne Brathwaite Burke

During her tenure in Congress, she served on the House Select Committee on Assassinations and the House Committee on Appropriations; during her tenure on the Appropriations Committee, she fought for increased funding to aid local jurisdictions to comply with desegregation mandates [11]

In 1973, with the birth of her daughter Autumn, Burke became the first Congresswoman to give birth while in office and the first to be granted maternity leave by the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.[1][11] She did not seek re-election to Congress in 1978 but instead ran for Attorney General of California. She won the Democratic nomination over Los Angeles City Attorney Burt Pines but was defeated in the general election by Republican State Senator George Deukmejian.

California political involvement[edit]

In 1979, shortly after leaving Congress, Governor Jerry Brown appointed her to the Board of Regents of the University of California; but she resigned later that year when Governor Brown appointed her to fill a vacancy on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. Burke was the first female and first African-American supervisor. Her district, however, was largely made up of affluent, conservative white areas on the coast. In 1980, Burke was defeated in her bid for a full term in the seat by Republican Deane Dana. In 1982, Brown again appointed her to the Regents.

In 1992, Burke ran for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. After a hard-fought campaign that often turned negative, Burke defeated State Senator Diane Watson.

In 2007, she announced that she would retire when her term expired in 2008. On July 27, 2007, the Los Angeles Times published a front-page story revealing Burke was not living in the mostly low-income district she represented, but rather in the wealthy Brentwood neighborhood, an apparent violation of state law.[12] Burke responded that she was living at her Brentwood mansion because the townhouse she listed in official political filings was being remodeled.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "BURKE, Yvonne Brathwaite | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives". history.house.gov. Retrieved 2016-05-04. 
  2. ^ "Yvonne Brathwaite Burke | Bedrosian Center | USC". bedrosian.usc.edu. Retrieved 2016-05-04. 
  3. ^ "Dr. William A. Burke". www.aqmd.gov. Retrieved 2016-05-04. 
  4. ^ "President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts". White House Office of the Press Secretary. 29 March 2012. 
  5. ^ Merl, Jean (29 March 2012). "Obama Nominates Yvonne Burke to Amtrak Post". Los Angeles Times. 
  6. ^ a b Phelps, Shirelle (editor) (1998). Who's Who Among African Americans (11th Edition). Detroit, Michigan, London: Gale Research. p. 178. ISBN 0-7876-2469-1. 
  7. ^ a b "California Birth Index 1905-1995 [database on-line]". United States: The Generations Network. 2005. Retrieved 2009-08-04. 
  8. ^ "California Marriage Index 1960-1985 [database on-line]". United States: The Generations Network. 2005. Retrieved 2009-08-04. 
  9. ^ https://alumni.ucla.edu/awards/yvonne-brathwaite-burke-53/
  10. ^ "BURKE, Yvonne Brathwaite - Biographical Information". bioguide.congress.gov. Retrieved 2016-05-04. 
  11. ^ a b c "Women in Government: A Slim Past, But a Strong Future". Ebony: 89–92, 96–98. August 1977. 
  12. ^ Leonard, Jack, and Lait, Matt. Burke has residence far removed from her constituency. Los Angeles Times, July 27, 2007.
  13. ^ Prince, Richard. L.A. Times Stakes Out Politician's Digs. Richard Prince's Journal-isms, July 27, 2007.

Further reading[edit]

  • Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, Africana: The Encyclopedia.
  • Ebony, (September, 1967). "Women Who Make State Laws": p27-34.
  • Gray, Pamela Lee. "Yvonne Brathwaite Burke: The Congressional Career of California's First Black Congresswoman, 1972–1978." Ph.D. diss., University of Southern California, 1987.

External links[edit]

California Assembly
Preceded by
Don Allen
Member of the California Assembly
from the 63rd district

Succeeded by
Julian Dixon
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Lionel Van Deerlin
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 37th congressional district

Succeeded by
Jerry Pettis
Preceded by
Alphonzo Bell
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 28th congressional district

Succeeded by
Julian Dixon
Preceded by
Martha Griffiths
Chair of the House Beauty Shop Committee
Position abolished
Preceded by
Charles Rangel
Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus
Succeeded by
Parren Mitchell
Political offices
Preceded by
James Hayes
Member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
from the 2nd district

Succeeded by
Deane Dana
Preceded by
Kenneth Hahn
Member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
from the 2nd district

Succeeded by
Mark Ridley-Thomas