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A sentimental sendoff for Supervisor Burke

November 25, 2008 | 11:04 am

Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke The USC marching band paid a visit to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting this morning, marching into chambers in full regalia.

The performance was in honor of Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke’s last meeting; she retires this month after 16 years representing the 2nd District. Songs included “Tusk” and “Conquest.” Burke, who graduated from USC Law School, was beaming.

“Madame Chair, wow, what a way to start the meeting for you,” said Supervisor Don Knabe, the incoming board chair, before beginning a series of presentations by the supervisors, county CEO Bill Fujioka and Sheriff Lee Baca.

“She is one of the individuals who truly inspired me and so many others,” said Supervisor Gloria Molina. “I remember what she was: The first black woman to serve in the state Legislature and in Congress.... Seeing her in this role was just very impressive. It was hard for many of us to see how a black woman from, I can say, humble beginnings could get to this place.”

“Yvonne Burke was our star,” Molina said, before presenting the departing supervisor with a homemade, multicolored quilt she called “Harmonic Convergence.”

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky announced that in Burke’s honor, the board has established a $50,000 scholarship fund for students at Cal State Dominguez Hills, which is in her district. Yaroslavsky remembered watching Burke as vice chair of the Democratic National Convention in Miami in 1972.

“She’s a peacemaker. She brings people together and synthesizes different points of view,” Yaroslavsky said, adding that despite Burke’s “calm and collaborative demeanor,”  there is “no more classic and tenacious fighter for what she believes.”

Supervisor Michael Antonovich presented Burke with heirloom roses (her favorite), and Fujioka gave her a Kindle, a portable device used to read books, newspapers and other printed material electronically. There followed a brief biographical video about Burke’s Los Angeles childhood and rise through the ranks of local politics to Congress and the board.

As she rose to speak at the end of the presentations, Burke received a standing ovation from the packed chamber. “This is really my extended family,” Burke said. “The programs that start in L.A. County spread across the country.” Of her years on the board, she said, “It’s been a great source of pride for me to be a part of this,” calling her time on the board, “my greatest opportunity.” The program ended with a performance by the Civic Center Choir.

Later this morning, the board is scheduled to consider building a $6.7-million driving range and batting cages at Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area in Baldwin Hills, part of Burke’s district, to be named  the Yvonne B. Burke Driving Range.

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske / molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

Photo credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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