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Georgia Mackie Burnette

Born on 4-4-1929. She was born in Buffalo, NY. She is accomplished in the area of Healthcare.
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I was a Depression baby, born in Buffalo, New York, in 1929 and fortunate to grow up surrounded by a large extended family.Because both parents worked, my mother as a domestic, my father in the steel mills, I spent much of my early life in the homes of aunts, uncles and cousins, soon becoming an integral part of their households. I graduated from P.S. #32 and Fosdick Masten Park High Schools, and felt I'd received a good education overall. Fondly I recall a number of interested, caring instructors and am extremely grateful for the excellent history teachers who managed to breathe life and character into ancient peoples, as opposed to lessons centered on dates, times and places and forgotten civilizations.

Following graduation from high school in 1946, I worked briefly at unskilled jobs, married in 1947, and shortly thereafter gave birth to a son, Dale McKnight. When my deferred goal of becoming a registered nurse re-surfaced, I sought admission to three nursing schools within the city. However, In the 1940's with the exception of the former E.J. Meyer Memorial Hospital (now Erie County Medical Center), Buffalo hospitals refused to accept Black nursing students. When my application to the County hospital was rejected, I discovered that being married also carried a penalty. Finally, I was admitted to the program at Lincoln School for Nurses, Bronx, New York, an all-black facility, but soon discovered that I sorely missed my family and found the transition to school and dormitory living quite difficult.

Following the completion of the first academic period I returned home upon learning the University at Buffalo now awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing, a rarity in the 1950's. I graduated in 1955, one of two African American students accepted into the program in 1951. I obtained a Masters in Education from Niagara University (1976), a nearby Catholic College, and at age forty-eight returned to the SUNY Buffalo for a Masters of Science in Nursing (1981).

Employment in the nursing field offered experiences I truly loved, the operating and emergency rooms, labor and delivery, and the newborn nursery.
These were all tense, fast paced and demanding areas, but just my cup of tea! A wonderful proving ground for what lay ahead.

I was divorced in 1958 and by late 1960, had moved to Chicago, Illinois to explore life and work "in a big city." Being acutely aware that a BS in Nursing in the 50's and 60's was an unusual occurrence, I was thrilled to obtain a position as Instructor in the School of Nursing at Cook County Hospital. This 2,000 bed facility was like nothing I'd ever experienced before, and could be compared only to the large public hospitals in New York City or Los Angeles, CA. It was a completely unique experience, one I'd not have wanted to miss, nor is it one I'll ever forget.

Money, staff and materials were in short supply as I supervised students on 100 bed wards using equipment from another era; or in specialty departments that would not meet codes anyplace in the United States. I and saw patients with conditions that I've not seen before or since, making the experience one I wish to write about while the stories are so vividly etched in my memory.

During the five years I resided in that wonderful city I also taught at Provident Hospital's School of Nursing. Provident was Chicago's all-Black hospital, mirroring the nation's ongoing practice of discrimination. Having never worked in an all-Black healthcare environment in Buffalo, this experience also proved to be another "one for the books." I returned home in 1966 due to the severe illness of my mother plus the death of my father and son.

Home Again
During my forty-year career span, I was appointed to leadership positions as Associate Director of Nursing, the Buffalo General Hospital, Assistant Professor of Nursing, Niagara University, Director of Nursing at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and the Buffalo Psychiatric Center. I retired in 1993.

In 1967 Luther Burnette and I were married and plan to celebrate our forty-second year of marriage on November 25, 2009. We both felt that our family was complete since he had been blessed over the years with five children; three in the Rochester area and two in Buffalo. 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.

Pet lovers everywhere will understand my need to mention our two mischievous felines, Boots and Buttons. Both have gone to kitty heaven, nevertheless, their ashes rest in a special place, and Luther has strict instructions to place them with me upon my demise. I want company wherever I go, and have no doubt the cats will stick by me, whether heavenly or hot!

Community Service
In the professional arena I served as President of The Professional Nurses Association of Western New York, District 1, NY State Nurses Association, and have been a longtime member of Nurses House, an organization assisting nurses in need throughout the United States. I am a lifetime member of the Alumni Association of the University of New York at Buffalo.
In the Black community I was active on the Education committee of BUILD of Buffalo, and later a Board member of the (former) Family Service Society of Buffalo, now Child and Family Services. As a result of this experience, I was appointed Board Chairperson of the Reach out Program that assisted inner city residents with housing, health, and educational issues. I enjoyed my six-years as a member of The Grace Manor Board of Directors; returning after a two-year hiatus for an additional year following the opening of the nursing home.

Shortly after retiring, I initiated and coordinated a Health Education program for seniors at the William-Emslie YMCA, Buffalo, NY. (1994-97), and was honored by that facility for my work on two occasions. From 1998-2006 I presented workshops at the annual Afro-American Family Reunion Conference, and authored the booklet Bylaws for a Family Association, now available through The Family Reunion Institute, Temple University, School of Social Administration, Philadelphia, PA.

Currently (2009) I am a Board member of the Afro-American Historical Association of the Niagara Frontier, a member of the Buffalo Genealogical Society of the African Diaspora, and lifetime member of the NAACP.

Of the awards received, I am most appreciative of those given me by my professional peers:

1. The Ruth T. McGrorey Award for contributions to the Advancement of Nursing, presented by the Professional Nurses Association of Western New York, District I, New York State Nurses Association.

And for my work in the Black Community:

1. The Mary B. Talbert Civic and Cultural Club Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Buffalo, New York Community
2. William-Emslie YMCA Awards for work with the Senior Citizens Program
3. The Afro-American Historical Association of the Niagara Frontier's William Wells Brown Award for "valuable contributions to our community"
4. The Uncrowned Queens Culture Keepers Award for preserving the cultural and historic assets of the African American Community.

Since retirement in 1993, my husband and I became active in family affairs, coordinating the 1997 and 1999 Burnette family reunions. We were instrumental in the formation of the Burnette Family Association and have become the unofficial ambassadors to the four lines of the Burnette family, locating and visiting with "newly found members" throughout the United States and Canada. In April, 2007, I concluded ten years as co-founder, writer and editor of The Burnette Bugle, the family newsletter.

At age 72, I began writing about health for local minority newspapers, expanding into areas of travel, Black history, Black veterans, Juneteenth and family reunions.


2005-present : Forever Young
The Over 50 Newspaper
Articles on health care, travel, retirement living and family reunions

2002-2003 : Pathfinders Travel Magazine for People of Color

2000-2003 : Buffalo Criterion
Articles on Black Health

2004 : The Veterans History Project
Published in The Officer
Official publication of The Reserve Officers Association

2002-present : Challenger
Articles about Black Veterans, Juneteenth, Family Reunions

1998- present : Reunions Magazine

1984 : The Managerial Aspects of Nursing Care: Leaders and Managers
Published in the Proceedings of the New York State Cancer Program Association, Inc,.

1972 : Supervisor Nurse
The Unit Dose System

I have also published in The Buffalo News, The Amherst Bee,
military, scholarly, and popular journals

My husband and I believe that travel is an important part of education, and scheduled time out each year to "get out of town." In retirement we continue to travel and look forward to as exciting vacation each year with Elderhostel, that outstanding program of education and travel which can take you to the city next door, or to faraway places with strange sounding names.

We have enjoyed nine cruises to the Caribbean, Cayman and Majorican Islands, visited Bermuda, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Brazil, England, Japan, Hawaii and Alaska. We've ridden the Bullet Train in Japan, the Auto Train to Florida, and the Snow Train from the USA to Canada. The helicopter ride and short cruise on a Hoovercraft were thrilling new adventures for us at the 1967 World's Fair in Montreal, Canada. Panama is our vacation destination for 2009.

We also believe that for Black Americans, education must be viewed not only as an approach to employment, but more importantly as the way to expand one's view of the world and greater enjoyment of life.