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Luther Burnette

Born on 10-2-1927. He was born in Brinkley, Arkansas.
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I was born October 2, 1927, in Brinkley, Arkansas, the youngest of Ellis and Minnie Burnettâ??s six children. My father died in 1930, just past my third birthday, and I have few memories of him. The large framed picture of Dad with his brother is the only photograph which exists of the young man who passed away when only 37 years old.
Early Life
My parents were farmers in rural Arkansas during the Great depression, owning 40 acres of land, and before hard times really hit, purchased an additional 80 acres. My mother managed the family, the farm, and worked the fields. In the off seasons my father cut timber, and hauled logs to the mills to be split into lumber. The central force in shaping my values was my mother who believed that education, perseverance and high expectations for yourself, would result in productive lives.
During the 1930â??s the economy of the rural south was based on family farming, and children often missed classes until the crops were in, or the fields cleared. A three-mile walk in fair weather or foul was necessary to reach the Capitol Grove School, a one room schoolhouse where a single teacher taught all eight grades. The older children assisted the younger students as directed.
In 1936, the heavily mortgaged farm was lost, and the family moved into a rent-to-own house in Brinkley. Valuing home ownership as much as education, Mamma Minnie paid ten dollars a month on the rental house until it became her own, and lived there until her death in 1981. Recently, the vacant lot was sold to a long time friend and neighbor.
To provide for the children, my mother worked two jobs; as counter girl in a nearby restaurant, and as maid in the local hotel. But at harvest time sheâ??d take us with her into the fields, where together weâ??d earn more money than her jobs at the restaurant and hotel.
I completed grades 1 through 4 (1932-36), but with the move into Brinkley, transferred to the Monroe County Training School completing 10th grade in 1943 at age 15. This ended free public school education for Black children in Brinkley, despite the fact that we lived only four blocks from a well equipped white high school supported by property taxes paid by black and white homeowners. The junior high school in Brinkley lacked science classes and laboratories, and we utilized textbooks and desks discarded by the white high school.
I attended a high school (eleventh and twelfth grades) located on the campus of the Agricultural, Mechanical & Normal College, a Black institution of higher learning 75 miles from Brinkley.
To partially offset the costs of tuition, room & board, I worked at various jobs cleaning campus offices and waiting tables in the college dining room. Over the next two years, I also found part-time work after school and weekends picking up and delivering clothing for a nearby drycleaners, as counterman/cashier at the campus cafeteria, bus-boy in a â??juke jointâ? on weekends and occasionally played tenor saxophone in a local dance band.
After graduation from high school, I moved to Buffalo, NY, and into the home of my sister, Blanche Thomas and her family. That first summer I obtained temporary work lubricating wheels on diesel engines for the N.Y. Central Railroad, but with the military draft of WW II hanging over my head, I was unable to obtain steady well-paying work. Although the fighting ended in 1945, I remained a prime candidate for the draft. During the summer of 1946 to end the suspense of waiting and to earn eligibility for World War II GI educational benefits, I attempted to enlist in the navy. But the services were still segregated and they would only accept me as a mess steward, despite the fact that my older brother Andrew had received specialized training in detecting and detonating enemy naval mines. Swallowing my disappointment, I enlisted in the Army.
Following Basic Infantry Training in Fort McClellan, Alabama, I received orders assigning me to occupation duty in the Far East, initially in Korea, then later in Japan.
In 1949, I returned to the United States, and transferred to the US Army Reserves. An Air Force ROTC program at the University of Buffalo provided additional military training, but in September 1953, I accepted a direct commission as Second Lieutenant in the Army, earning regular promotions until retiring as a full Colonel October 2, 1987.
Initially planning to follow a pre-dental program, I enrolled at the University of Buffalo in September 1949, but found it impossible to pass courses in biology and chemistry due to the lack of a science-based high school curriculum. Nevertheless, I assessed my strengths, accepted my deficiencies, and went on to major in psychology, receiving a B.A. degree in May 1953. In 1976, I obtained a Masters Degree in Education from Niagara University.
I was unable to find employment locally in the human services sector, and moved briefly (â??55-56) to Detroit to work as an investigator for the Welfare Department. Upon return to Buffalo, NY with my family in 1956, work at the Ford Motor Assembly Plant kept food on the table while awaiting a position as probation officer in the County Probation Department where I remained from 1958 to 1966.
Wishing to remain in the NY State Retirement System but seeking a career change offering increased remuneration, I moved to the State Office of Vocational Rehabilitation as rehabilitation counselor. In 1976, in order to advance to an administrative level, I accepted a position in the Department of Mental Health as Supervisor of Rehabilitation in a center for the developmentally disabled at Perrysburg, NY. Three years later I became Director of Rehabilitation Services at Gowanda Psychiatric Center retiring in 1983.

Military Career
Iâ??ve enjoyed a long, varied and challenging career in the military, remaining in the Army Reserves following discharge from the Regular Army in 1949. What started out as a seven-year plan turned into a 41-year career.
To earn promotions in the Army, it is necessary to pursue both civilian and military education. Expanding upon my initial plan, I continued on to complete the Officers Basic Course, The Air Defense Career Course (BS level military education) and the Command and General Staff College (MS level). Of the six medals received from the regular army and Army Reserves, the highest was the Meritorious Service Medal, awarded in 1977 and 1984, for outstanding performance.
Following retirement, four longtime friends and military colleagues formed a committee to recognize and honor Blacks who had served their country in the Armed Forces of the United States. We call ourselves, Blacks In the Military: Inspired by the Buffalo Soldiers. The first Black U.S. Troops, known later as Buffalo Soldiers, were created in 1866 when Congress authorized the 9th and 10th Calvary, and the 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments.
Activities to Promote the History of Blacks in the Military
â?¢ Museum Display, dedicated May 21, 1994 at the Buffalo-Erie County Military Park. The display offers a look at the contributions made by African-American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, from the time of the original Bufflalo Soldiers to the present.
â?¢ Presentations are offered to groups of ten or more persons, utilizing videos and question and answer sessions
â?¢ Our Banquets recognize exemplary African-Americans who have achieved excellence in the military.
Community Service
For 25 plus years I was a staple in the Buffalo civil rights community, holding leadership positions in:
â?¢ CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) President, 1963-67*

Fought for and wrested control of the CAO Board of Directors from whites who lived outside the targeted poverty area, and replaced them with directors who resided within designated boundaries. Joined the Community Mothers in the fight to remove an abusive elementary school principal from Public School 6.

CORE sounded the alarm regarding the newly constructed Woodlawn Junior High. The school board under the leadership of Benjamin C. Willis had quietly gerrymandered the geographic boundaries, insuring that it eventually would become just another ghetto school. A Courier Express article dated August 19, 1964, noted â??the Woodlawn School will accommodate 1200 pupils, grades 7-9, Enrollment is 98% Negro. On September 9, 1964, CORE picketed the school on opening day, but our efforts
were ignored by parents and teachers alike.
â?¢ ESCO (East Side Community Organization), Assistant Treasurer, 1965-67

This temporary organization was the initial funding source for B.U.I.L.D.
â?¢ B.U.I.L.D. (Build Unity, Independence, Liberty and Dignity), was an activist organization

Formed under the guidance of Saul Alinski, the renown Chicago sociologist. (1966). I was part of a small group that developed the concept for this action-oriented community organization, and worked primarily behind the scenes to assist the â??grassrootsâ? members in attacking social, economic, educational and other issues. The purpose of the organization was to assist the local Black community in gaining strength and power commensurate with the large Black population in the city. It was an uphill battle all the way, and as usual, we won some and lost some.
â?¢ JUNETEENTH FESTIVAL INC. celebrates our culture, heritage & freedom from slavery.

I was a longtime member of the organization (1966-1980â??s) until I accepted the positions of Vice President, and President during the 1980â??and 90â??s., when Claudia Simms retired after many years at the helm. I am proud of my contributions to the minority community, and to reinforce these beliefs I hold memberships in several community organizations.
Family
In 1967 Georgia (Mackie) Gagnet and I were married. We plan to celebrate our forty-second year of marriage on November 25, 2009. We both felt that our family was complete since I had already been blessed with five children, Michele, Wm. Laurence, Lisa, Linda and Sarita. Plus, we soon had hands-on responsibility for our twin nieces, Karla and Karen Thomas during their last two years of high school. We now have seven grandchildren and one great grandson.

The first Burnett(e) family reunion was held in 1970 when the children of Minnie Lee Burnette met at the homestead in Brinkley, Arkansas. During the 1970â??s and â??80â??s we sporadically held reunions on a regional basis until 1991 and 1993, when our gatherings finally included family from throughout the United States.
My wife, Georgia and I were instrumental in the formation of the Burnett(e) Family Association, and were coordinators of the 1997 and 1999 reunions. Since the Association was created in 1997, I have served as treasurer/ assistant treasurer, and co-editor of The Burnette Bugle our family newsletter. The Bugle was co-founded by my wife, Georgia in 1997, and has been published for the past ten years.
Family Ambassadors
Georgia and I have become the Family Ambassadors after assuming the task of searching for descendants within each of the four family lines which began with my paternal grandmother, Fannie Burnett. This task was a legacy inherited from my older brother, Elmer, deceased, and resulted in the creation of four Burnett(e) Family Directories, which we continue to maintain.

Membership in Professional Organizations
Lifetime Memberships:
State University @Buffalo Alumni Association
NAACP
ROA (Reserve Officers Association
MOA (Military Officers Association
Memberships
Afro-American Historical Association of the Niagara Frontier
BGSAD (Buffalo Genealogical Society of the African Diaspora)
Bennett-Wells Post American Legion Post #1780