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



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

 Early life

Born Perle Yvonne Watson on October 5, 1932, in Los Angeles to James A. Watson and the former Lola Moore.[1][2] She married Dr. William A. Burke in Los Angeles on June 14, 1972. To this union was born a daughter, Autumn Roxanne on November 23, 1973.[1][2][3]

Education: Attended University of California at Berkeley, c. 1949-51; University of California at Los Angeles, Bachelor’s degree; University of Southern California Law School, Juris Doctorate, 1956.

Prior to representing the 2nd District, she 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 (1967–1973). 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

Yvonne Brathwaite Burke

During her tenure in Congress, she served on the House Select Committee on Assassinations. In 1973, she became the first member of Congress to give birth while in office. 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

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.[4] Burke responded that she was living at her Brentwood mansion because the townhouse she listed in official political filings was being remodeled.[5]


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.


Posted February 19, 2012 by pennylibertygbow in Uncategorized

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