Baltimore Sun file photo
September 10, 2014
Clarence H. Du Burns was a self-made politician and urban renewal expert who was elected to the City Council in 1971 and rose to become City Council president. He became the city's first African-American mayor in January 1987, when William Donald Schaefer departed for Annapolis after being elected governor.
Burns tenure lasted only 11 months when he went down to defeat in 1987 when he lost the mayoral primary to State's Attorney Kurt l. Schmoke. During his brief administration, he worked to improve city schools, created the first city program to aid the homeless, found money to keep five branch libraries open that were slated to be closed. He also increased funding for schools without raising taxes or eliminating jobs.
At his death in 2003, Del. Howard P. Rawlings said it was the passing of an "extraordinary period era in the African-American political life."
"He was a consummate politician in the sense that he enjoyed his work, he reached out to the total community -- not just the African-American community, but the white community, the Jewish community, the Italian community, the Polish community."
Burns was buried at New Cathedral Cemetery.