Oral History of Honorable Arthur Burnett, Sr.
This interview is being conducted on behalf of the Oral History Project of The Historical
Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is William Marmon and the
interviewee is Honorable Arthur Burnett, Sr. The interview took place at the home of William
Marmon on Tuesday, November 5, 2019. This is the fifth interview.
MR. MARMON: Good morning, Judge.
JUDGE BURNETT: Good morning.
MR. MARMON: Today we’re going to talk about the activities that you’ve been engaged in
since you left the D.C. bench. We also want to talk about your very
interesting family. So let’s talk first about the activities and organizations
that you have been involved in since you left the bench, and if you can
give dates, I think that would be helpful too.
JUDGE BURNETT: As of August 1, 2004, I took a sabbatical as a senior judge, still retaining
the title of senior judge, but on sabbatical for what I thought would be a
limited period of a year or two years to organize and to get the National
African-American Drug Policy Coalition to begin to realize its mission. In
addition, we appointed a blue-ribbon commission of prominent AfricanAmerican leaders to come up with what the goals and objectives of the
coalition should be.
The coalition was headed by a former mayor of Houston, Texas,
Lee P. Brown, and a deputy who was Beny Primm, who had been an
official with the U.S. government in drug prevention and treatment here in
nearby Maryland. That commission held a number of hearings around the
country. I served as the Executive Director of this blue ribbon
Commission to hear witnesses throughout the nation to develop the
mission and objectives of the National African-American Drug Policy
This commission operated for a period of about two years, and at
the end of two years, we moved forward to seek incorporation under
District of Columbia law as a non-profit corporation. On January 12,
2006, it was incorporated in the District of Columbia and by Letter of
August 39, 2006 was granted its Federal non-profit status under Section
501(C3) of the Internal Revenue Code retroactive to the date of
As a result of this blue-ribbon commission’s work, I prepared a
Commission’s Report that set forth five major objectives or missions of
the National African-American Drug Policy Coalition. The first objective
was to get the United States government, and indeed the states, to treat
drug addiction and dependency as a health issue and that deal with persons
who possess or deal in illegal drugs in a public health manner rather than
just sent back and forth to prison. These people should be treated like
persons asserting the insanity defense. I relied on a case out of the
Supreme Court of the United States that arose out of California titled
California v. Robinson, which said that the state could not punish a person
for being a vandal based on the status of being a narcotic addict. So I
urged that addiction and possession of drugs should be treated as a public
health matter rather than bouncing people in and out of jail, “doing life on
the installment plan.” I recall that was the phrase we coined at that point,
by way of repeated incarcerations of people who were addicted or so
dependent that they could not control their conduct. Thus our number one
role was to convince the federal government, and even state governments,
to start looking at treatment when the offense of possession was due to a
craving or a compulsion to use drugs. So that ended up being our number
one mission.
Our number two mission was to deal effectively with prevention,
and specifically on how to prevent our teenage youngsters from
experimenting with drugs and becoming more or less addicted and adding
to the addiction population. We came to the conclusion that we could not
just take a negative approach and tell them just don’t do it, or what I call
the Nancy Reagan approach, that it’s bad, or it’s sinful, just don’t do it.
We concluded that we needed to tie to this concept an added concept of
self-improvement, and of achievement and education, that our prevention
programs go forward more with a concept of encouraging our teenagers,
our youth, that they can get more out of life by pursuing high quality
education, like they want to excel in music or athletic activities, so that
affirmative action would not even be necessary because they could prove
they could be just as outstanding in educational achievement as Blacks.
So we took an approach saying we will create speakers bureaus where
Blacks who have overcome poverty and become doctors, lawyers, social
workers, and in other professional fields would go to schools and give
motivational talks and be role models, would become guidance counselors
to our youth or even mentors to youth who needed tutoring or where
parental control was not up to normal expectation. Basically that
objective, the number two objective, probably is about fifty percent of the
work of the National African-American Drug Policy Coalition, Inc.
Further, this program could also include Internships and apprentice roles
for these youth who respond to our motivational speakers and potential
The third objective was that we were based at Howard University
Law School. Howard University Law School had been a leader in
Brown v. Board of Education and in dealing with NAACP to promote civil
rights and eliminate prejudice and discrimination and that the National
African-American Drug Policy Coalition would be based at Howard
University Law School as a legal think tank for Black America, much like
the Congressional Research Service. Indeed, we worked out with the
Dean,, at that point Dean Kurt Schmoke, that the law students at Howard
who had maintained or were able to achieve a 3.0 GPA out of a 4.0 scale
could end up working as legal research assistants to me as the Executive
Director on proposed legislation in Congress, or in state legislatures, or
cases in appellate courts. That was our number three mission.
Next we focused on the Second Chance Act that had been
promoted by Congressman Danny Davis, and now Senator Roth, which
was passed to determine how do we deal with giving people who had been
in incarcerated a second chance to turn their lives around upon being
released from incarceration to return to our communities. We came up
with the concept that when a parent gets out of prison, let us connect him
or her with his or her sons and daughters to influence them not to make
the mistakes they made. But even more important, we stressed that if a
father or mother got out of prison and saw his or her children being
successful, being outstanding in sports, athletic activities, and student
school activities, this would be an influence on him or her to not commit
new crimes and go back to prison and be deprived of seeing and being part
of their children’s lives. Further affirmative assistance would be given the
father and mother to obtain a decent residence and employment or to enter
training for a job in which there would be employment for him or her.
So this fourth principal of implementing the Second Chance Act
was to reconnect, or to connect, a father with his child to prevent the child
from falling into the trap of criminal activity to engage juvenile delinquent
behavior, and influence the father to say “I want to be a part of my child’s
life, and therefore I’m not going to engage in burglaries or robberies or
selling drugs. I’m going to set a good example for my son or my daughter
so they don’t end up being subjected to the prison life that I had as an
inmate.” The press does not tell you this, but many inmates get out of
prison, and when they get out of prison, they find a son or a daughter
they’d never even seen who is now nine, ten, eleven years of age. They
connect with the child, and then they say I want to work with other
children. We had many inmates who have created non-profit or
community organizations to work with youngsters to influence them to not
engage in crime and delinquent behaviors and to inspire and motivate
them to achieve.
Only this past week during Halloween I attended two sessions
organized by a man who had been in prison eleven years who now works
with the police department to prevent these youngsters from committing
juvenile delinquency offenses such as shoplifting, or breaking into
people’s cars and influencing them to engage in good behaviors.
Then, of course, to further implement the Second Chance Act, we
came up with a fifth goal. That was to persuade businessmen, members of
the Kiwanis, Chambers of Commerce and other professional groups not to
slam the doors in faces of people who get out of prison, but in order to
improve the quality of life of both the returning citizens from prison and
preventing their children from committing crime, evaluate a person as an
individual, his present value system, and his objectives. Interview that
person and decide whether that person indeed has so changed so that
person can be employed, given a working life, made to feel like he has a
mission or a purpose in life. Indeed in my travels around the country, I
had an individual businessman tell me “My director was a former inmate.
I trust him more than I trust my own son. He is producing more for me in
running an operation than people who have never been in trouble.” We
have had testimonies from corporate executives who have said this person
you never would have known that he had been in trouble based on where
he is now and how well he does his job.
I and other representatives of the National African-American Drug
Policy Coalition, Inc. speak at Kiwanis Club meetings and Chambers of
Commerce and other business groups. Indeed, right now in the City of
Baltimore, I’m urging the Black Chamber of Commerce this coming
summer to find ten or twenty young black boys to work as assistants in
CVS stores and other business operations, so instead of vandalism and
burning down stores, they see what proprietors have to do and how
valuable they are to the welfare of the entire community.
During the Obama administration, I was able to persuade it to
allow me to persuade the Small Business Administration to consider
giving loans to former inmates who want to start businesses. We had one
gentleman in Florida who indeed developed such a reputation that people
call him and ask him if he had trained any former inmates he could refer to
them to use in their businesses. I even recommended this individual to
President Barack Obama and the White House staff to be recognized for
his outstanding achievements.
In another situation, in the state of North Carolina, I have a
gentleman who was in prison in New Jersey as a young man. Today he
has won awards for running a company which employs former inmates
collecting the garbage of the city of Charlotte He runs environmental
cleanup in Charlotte, North Carolina that’s been praised by the Governor
and other leaders of the state of North Carolina. Further, he is now a
Minister of the Gospel and a very religious person.
MR. MARMON: Let’s talk about the One Hundred Fathers group.
JUDGE BURNETT: Before we leave that, let me indicate that the coalition concept was the
idea of bringing together all of the national Black or African-American
organizations that touch on the lives of minority people going through life,
and so we set out to not only deal with involving the National Bar
Association and African-American lawyers, which was the organizationwhich came up with this concept and served as the catalyst to bring in the
National Organization of Black Psychologists, the Black Psychiatrists, the
National Association of Black Social Workers, the National Organization
of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the National Black Prosecutors
and other organizations of individuals concerned with civil rights and the
criminal justice system. In the process during these two years, my duties
involved me reaching out to the presidents of these various organizations,
telling them what our mission was and inviting them to become members
of the coalition, much like the states are part of the United States, or like
nations are part of the United Nations organization, with the concept being
that these organizations would share their objectives and missions to work
in unity on policy issues law applications and in our entire juvenile and
criminal justice system in the United States of America. Initially we set
out to come up with at least fifteen such organizations and then we were
going to incorporate. By July of 2005, we had fifteen, but we had eight
more saying wait up, Judge Burnett, “We want to consider joining the
Coalition and have our boards vote on whether we should become
members.” We held up until January of 2006 when we had a total of
twenty-three member organizations dealing with health, criminal and these
consultants do the work contemplated by the grants. Constitution and
social policy, coming together as a major coalition.
MR. MARMON: Do you have any central staff?
JUDGE BURNETT: We had a staff at Howard Law School that consisted of a professor, Dr.
Jean Bailey, Ph.D. and her assistant, and then I had a young lawyer,
Marshella Toldson, who has been with us since that time and who now is
part of the regular staff. As a matter of fact, as of today, the National
African-American Drug Policy Coalition has a total of six grants, and the
administrative assistant to Dr. Bailey is Ms. Rosalee Morris. They are the
key people. There are a number of consultants doing the actual work
required by the grants. These consultants work as staff and are paid
consultants, as contractors, not employees, under the grants under my
oversight and the staff listed above. These grants provide in their content
a budget for retaining social workers, psychologists and others to end up
being the outreach people to deal with youngsters to present programs and
engage in activity, including arranging for counsellor mentors and social
workers, family counselors and other needs of the individuals. This is
where the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America come in and other
mentoring groups with whom we have established a coordinating
relationship. Thus we have entered a Memorandum of Understanding
with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and also collaborate with other
groups such as 100 Black Men of America and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity
for mentor-counselors in connection with the needs of youth with whom
we work. These are referred to as MOU relationships of community
organizations working together to meet the needs of children who get into
trouble. So they became and are today a supporting organization of the
National African-American Drug Policy Coalition.
In addition to the national organization, the concept was developed
of creating local chapters. Local chapters are to be affiliates, much like
the American Medical Association may have in a town or city or state
local medical association or like the National Bar Association having local
chapters in the states and cities of the United States. Over the initial two
years, we developed a total of twenty-three local chapters, a couple being
statewide and others in cities or towns or portions of a state. For example,
in North Carolina, Reverend Joseph Robinson who I previously mentioned
is the chapter leader for the entire state. He hires ex-offenders to clean up
the city of Charlotte and has received praised for it. He has been
recognized and asked to be a consultant in many other states. In
California, on the other hand, there are three separate chapters. In Texas,
there are two, one in Dallas and the other in Houston. In Chicago and in,
Detroit. I have local groups of ten, twelve, fifteen black leaders all
working together to achieve the five-point objective programs of the
National African-American Drug Policy Coalition. I have so much I could
use three or four more people as administrative staff people just to keep up
with everything that we are doing.
MR. MARMON: What about the One Hundred Fathers Group?
JUDGE BURNETT: One Hundred Fathers, Incorporated, is another group – separate -in which I
was asked to be the chairperson in connection with the Coalition’s group
of getting fathers coming out of prison involved with their children.
Indeed, they are a supporting organization to connect fathers that they
work with to become involved with their children and work with our on
our common goals and objectives.
As a matter of fact, we had one instance where the D.C.
government initially had a policy of not allowing ex-offenders to do
voluntary work in schools. We got them to change that policy, and one of
our gentlemen became so popular with the school to which he was
permitted to work in that the grades of the kids went up astronomically,
and the behavior of the kids went up astronomically in that school. And
now the school system has a policy of evaluating the individual father,
even though he’s been in prison, as to operations of the school. There was
one ceremony two or three years ago where the father of the year had been
a former inmate whose son, as I recall, was finishing college that year and
his daughter was getting a master’s degree. He was such a successful
counsellor-mentor that, like the pied piper, he has kids following him
everywhere he wants to go. He was recognized as being father of the year,
yet he had been a prison inmate. We don’t hear about these success
stories but they do exist. And like Saul becoming Paul and a leader for
Jesus Christ. Many former inmates leave prison and come out and do
greater work with our youth to keep them out of trouble than many adults
who have had no serious trouble involvement with the criminal justice
MR. MARMON: What about the Global Youth for Justice Program?
JUDGE BURNETT: The Global Youth Justice Program is one that was started by a gentleman
named Scott Peterson, who had been a project manager for the Justice
Department under Janet Reno and leading up to the first President Bush’s
Administration. He was the whistleblower on the Bush Administration
favoring giving grants to Cal Ripken and Republican supporters rather
than on merit of evaluation of their grant applications for programs for
youth which did not deal with kids that really needed the services. It just
so happened through my connections with Marian Wright Edelman, that I
got to know Hillary Clinton and involved with the Office for Juvenile
Justice Delinquency Prevention, I came to the attention of Shay Bilchik,
the administrator and Attorney General Janet Reno, and also Scott
Peterson at that time. When Scott Peterson left the Justice Department
and decided to go out on his own and to create the Youth Court program
he learned of me and my interest in juvenile justice and youth courts he
asked me to be kind of a scholar in residence, to be the person who would
come out and give talks to training institutes. Indeed, I swore in on one
occasion when Janet Reno was Attorney General, the Advisory Council l
on juvenile justice matters and participated in its proceedings. So going
back some 12-15 years s, I almost became someone like his deputy or vice
president in running training institute programs and to create diversion
programs for youngsters who get in trouble. We emphasized in those
training sessions rather than sending youth to pre-hearing detention, let’s
get the family and kid the services needed so the kid doesn’t go deeper
into the process and commit further juvenile delinquent offenses.
As a result of that program, I would travel to Cape Cod,
Massachusetts and give lectures once or twice a year to training institute
programs for people who wanted to start these programs, or to Las Vegas,
Nevada for such training institute programs. I was Scott’s scholar in
residence and theory person for the last ten or eleven years. Three years
ago, he incorporated under Massachusetts law. Before that, it had been an
LLC. Now he has become a Section 501(C)(3) corporation, and I am the
Vice President of Policy for the corporation and his key scholar in
residence. As a matter of fact, I’m to fly to Las Vegas for such an Institute
program the first week of December to address an audience of about 125
individuals who run youth courts programs around the country. The
organization has now grown to a point where it has over 1,800 youth court
operations affiliated with it throughout the United States and a few
internationally, and it has come to the attention of the United Nations. On
Friday, Scott Peterson will be here with me, and we will put on a youth
court demonstration model on Friday, November 8, 2019 in the afternoon
at the hotel where the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice
Section is meeting. In addition, at the luncheon, I’m receiving the Charles
English Award with is the highest award the Criminal Justice Section
gives for someone promoting juvenile justice in America. I’m the senior
chairperson of the Alternative Dispute and Juvenile Justice Committee for
the Criminal Justice Section writer, and I’m the judicial author of the first
article in that publication, a quarterly publication issued just before the
annual meeting of the ABA.
MR. MARMON: Thank you. We’ll put the citation in the transcript. Innovation in
Reducing Juvenile Crime and Recidivism, author Laura Lothman Lambert
with perspective from the bench by the Honorable Arthur L. Burnett, Sr.
That article is in Criminal Justice magazine, Volume 34, Summer 2019, at
Pages 4–9
What about Stem4?
JUDGE BURNETT: STEM4 is a non-profit in which I think I got involved in both because of
my relationship with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. Its
organization became one of the original members of the National AfricanAmerican Drug Policy Coalition. As a result of that relationship working
with Black members of Congress and with the idea of promoting black
educational excellence, I met a gentleman named Talib Karim who had
been chief counsel to Sheila Jackson Lee with reference to getting the Fair
Sentencing Act of 2010 passed to reduce the disparity between crack
cocaine and powder cocaine. So based on that relationship, as well as the
fact that my son the principal inventor of Viagra, he figured that he would
want me to be a part of the group that he was establishing to promote
engineering, computer literacy and technology, literacy on modern
electronics, to promote and encourage African-American youth to
consider careers in science and technology so we would not have to rely
on bringing people here from foreign countries who have relatives back in
those countries who some time may be subject to pressure and duress that
lead to national security issues. So he asked me to be on the board of
directors, and I said, “I’m on too many organizations now.” so he said how
about making you chair of my advisory committee because of your
network and the fact that you have a son who is an inventor of Viagra
which indicates your promotion of science.
So that’s how I ended up being pulled into STEM to influence
more young African-American youth with their talent for engineering,
science, electronics, or related fields to be exposed, and even if you come
from poverty backgrounds, where they don’t know their fathers, we’ll give
them a counselor mentor.in the area of the talent of the youth. In my case,
for example, my oldest daughter, when she was 14, had a summer
internship at NASA and then she did an internship with Congresswoman
Linda Boggs, and now she’s a lawyer in four different states and D.C. and
a CPA. The point is I don’t just talk the game, I did it with my children.
MR. MARMON: As if that’s not enough, Judge, I see here you are a co-author of a book
called Pieces Never Missing Required in a Child’s Life with Dwayne
Meeks and Arthur L. Burnett, Sr. Tell us how that came about.
JUDGE BURNETT: I met Dwayne Meeks at a conference in Arizona or one of the western
states put on my Fathers and Families Coalition of America. He was a
lecturer, and he had heard me talk about the mission of the National
African-American Drug Policy Coalition and getting fathers involved with
their children to keep them from getting involved in juvenile delinquency
offences. He said “I’m going to write a book because I have four sons and
I have worked with them and they are all straight-“A” students, and I want
to influence other youth and their fathers to do the same, and what your
organization is doing and your background as a judge in family court and
juvenile matters and your own family,, I’m going to write a book, and I
want you to write the foreword. I agreed. He sent me a first draft, and I
thought maybe I should reflect my own experience and integrate my own
experience with my own five children as well as what I’ve seen on the
bench in dealing with child and family matters and dealing with family
and domestic violence issues and so forth. So I approached him about
doing what we’re doing now here. Let me add some insights or
perspectives from the judge’s point of view and so forth. So what started
out as a project for me to write a foreword ended up being a blended book.
He suggested I insert my comments in each of his proposed chapters. It
ended up being two co-authors that reflects his experience with his
children and, indeed, the book has gotten such attention that I was invited
to be a speaker at a Colorado Department of Education program institute
to promote minority youth going into excellence in education. While there
for that session, I met the governor of the state. It was in January, and that
weekend was the celebration of Martin Luther King Day. Since I was
there, I was invited to come to it and be there. And then during the course
of that day, people called the governor’s attention to me being there, and I
was asked to make comments about Martin Luther King and to address an
audience of a crowd of several hundred people. When I finished, the
governor said “Judge Burnett, if you were a resident of Colorado, I’d
make you an aide in my office and have you speak to crowds like this
every day of the week.” And then Mr. Meeks said “Judge Burnett, I want
to organize a chapter of the National African-American Drug Policy
Coalition.” He then took me around and introduced me to chiefs of police,
and now he has a state-wide chapter of the National African-American
Drug Policy Coalition, and as of only two months ago, he has a
contractual relationship with the Department of Corrections for the whole
state of Colorado where they are interested in buying this book to give to
every inmate in the prison system to encourage them to work with their
children when they get out of prison, to change their lives to avoid
recidivism and be part of their children’s lives.
So in the state of Colorado, this book is being considered to be
given to every prison inmate as to how they should relate to their children
when they get out of prison. That project is under way now with the
American Correctional Association as to whether this book can be used to
change the lives of prison inmates who have children and when they get
out of prison, not only improve their own lives, but also influence them to
influence their youngsters to reduce mass incarceration in America.
MR. MARMON: This was published in 2017.
JUDGE BURNETT: Right. So that’s how that book came about.
MR. MARMON: Now I’d like to move on to get your accounting of your quite remarkable
family starting with your wife and then your five children. Tell us a little
bit about your wife and then go on to your five kids.
JUDGE BURNETT: I was in California in the military and was supposed to have Thanksgiving
dinner in November 1959 with a fellow named Milton McGee who had
been a Black attorney who had been selected for Attorney General Honors
Program the same time I had been selected in June of 1958. He was
married and had two small children. I was supposed to have Thanksgiving
dinner with them, but the children came down with the flu, and they said
we don’t want to invite you here and give you the flu. My wife has a
girlfriend who can meet you and show you around San Francisco since
you’ve never been here on the west coast. That girlfriend turned out to
become my wife. She ended up giving me a tour of San Francisco, and we
started chatting. She was very interesting, so on weekends after
Thanksgiving of 1959, I would go up to the San Francisco and Oakland
area and visit with her. She was a nurse who specialized in premature
babies nursing and nutrition. She had taken courses here and there,
enough that if she had taken them in sequence, she probably could have
earned a Ph.D. She had even gone to New Orleans and worked at Charity
Hospital and taken courses at Xavier University and had been very
studious/. Along about mid-January, we started talking about we could do
this together, we could do that together. I don’t even remember
proposing. We just evolved into an acceptance of together for future
endeavors. So I remember in January saying maybe we should go tell
your mother and step-father that we are contemplating getting married.
That’s how this came about. I don’t remember even thinking about
proposing or how to propose. It just evolved.
MR. MARMON: That’s wonderful. Where were you married?
JUDGE BURNETT: So then came May 14, 1960 and we were married at St. Augustine’s
Catholic Church in Oakland, on the border of Berkeley and Oakland,
while I was still in the military service. When I finished my two-year
service obligation she came back with me to Washington, D.C. when I
came back to the Justice Department. Then we started having children.
MR. MARMON: Her name is Frisbieann, right? And her maiden name is what?
JUDGE BURNETT: Lloyd. Her birth certificate shows she’s Native American. She looks like
she’s from India.
MR. MARMON: So you started having children?
JUDGE BURNETT: Right. We had our oldest daughter, and then a year-and-a-half later, our
first son. A year after that, a second son. And then two years later in 1965
we had our second daughter. So in five years, we had four children.
MR. MARMON: They have had pretty amazing careers themselves.
JUDGE BURNETT: Yes. My wife, once the children got to be school age and she wasn’t tied
up taking care of the kids, with her nursing background and specialization
with children, she volunteered to be the nurse for a Catholic school,
Blessed Sacrament School here in Washington, D.C., that my children
attended. From there, as they got older, during the Clinton
Administration, she volunteered to be a correspondent secretary with
youth and worked in the White House as a volunteer two or three days a
week and also worked with kids from people who worked in embassies
and so forth. So that’s been her kind of path, being a nurse volunteer, and
because of her specialization, people think they are talking to a medical
doctor. So that’s basically been her career and encouraging each of our
five children to excel in all of their studies and activities.
Then, of course, with our children coming along, I ended up
working with the scout master at Blessed Sacrament, Troop 90, and ended
up being assistant scout master. The scoutmaster had a serious heart
problem so he couldn’t do all the physical things that scouts do like
climbing around, taking hikes, other heavy duties. I took on those duties
and used vacation time off from work to lead the demanding scout
activities. I was in my career at the Justice Department I would time my
vacation time for a week in the wilderness. Then my older son, who was
so precocious that by the time he was 13 years of age, he had earned his
Eagle badge. And then the other one said if he can do it, I can do it too, so
he set out to do the same thing. Then they were in little league football
and sports activities where I was the coach and in football games
frequently the referee on the field.
MR. MARMON: I want to get some details about these kids. So your daughter, your oldest
daughter, what’s she up to now?
JUDGE BURNETT: My oldest daughter went to Catholic schools then finished that and went
on to VPI first when she thought she wanted to be an engineer. But she
ran into certain race issues and so forth, and even though at VPI some
people thought she was Spanish because she’s light-complexioned and
brunette hair and so forth. One situation at VPI, she had Caucasian
girlfriends that when I brought her back for her sophomore year, they were
helping her unload the car and take her stuff up to the dorm room she’d be
in, and when they finished unloading the car, my daughter called her
girlfriends over and said let me introduce you to my dad. One of them
without thinking, I think, said oh, I thought he was your chauffer. They
didn’t even realize that she was black. They thought she was Spanish.
One of them asked how’d you enjoy her summer in Spain.
MR. MARMON: What’s her name?
JUDGE BURNETT: This is Christa. Darnellena Christalynn Burnett “Darnellena” is a
combination of two grandmothers’ names, so we merged the two names.
So her first name is Darnellena and the second name is Christalynn, Christ
with a. She’s the one that went to VPI, was going to study and do work in
engineering, with a NASA and space exploration internship, but she was
only making C’s, and she was trying to see professors, and professors
were putting her off, so she decided to transfer from VPI to Hampton, a
Black college, and there she excelled in math and finance and changed her
major to accounting and graduated with honors. Then she came back
home, worked for a while, and then said she was going to law school. She
went to George Mason School of Law and ended up being a Teaching
Assistant in Tax Law she was so good with math and financial matters.
She worked with Blue Cross initially in the interval, then she took the Bar
and passed, and she became a member of the Pennsylvania Bar first and
then she scored high enough to waive into D.C. She took the Virginia bar
and passed it, and then she went to Kentucky and passed that Bar and then
came back here and became a member of the Maryland bar. So she’s a
member of the Bar of four different states and the District of Columbia.
MR. MARMON: She’s married with kids?
JUDGE BURNETT: No. She’s single.
MR. MARMON: And now, your number one son.
JUDGE BURNETT: Number one son, he is junior, but we call him Arthur Burnett the “II”,
Roman number II. We arbitrarily did that even though Roman numbers
are usually used when you skip a generation. We deviated from that. He
was so precocious at Catholic school that we took him out and put him in
St. Anselm Abbey, which is like Sidwell Friends School for the Catholic
faith. He so excelled there that by the time he got to the last semester, he
was taking courses at Catholic University, and while still at St. Anselm
Abbey, he earned about 25 hours of college credits at Catholic, then went
on to Princeton and started anew, and at Princeton excelled to a point
where he ended up graduating number two in his class.
MR. MARMON: At Princeton he knew Michelle Obama?
JUDGE BURNETT: When he was a sophomore, he was assigned to be her big brother. And
also he was captain of the lightweight football team. He ended up
graduating number two in his class at Princeton.
MR. MARMON: Do you remember what year?
JUDGE BURNETT: I think it was 1984. And then he checked out different medical schools
and ended up choosing Johns Hopkins. While at Johns Hopkins, he asked
to continue his research as to nitroxide and so forth, and Hopkins said we
normally don’t allow first-year medical students to engage in medical
research, but since your record is so exceptional, we will make an
exception and assign Dr. Snyder to be your monitor. He applied to Pfizer
for research grant money and that led to the invention of Viagra.
MR. MARMON: Expand on that a little bit. That’s quite interesting.
JUDGE BURNETT: As a result of getting approval to do his research at Johns Hopkins, he
approached Pfizer to provide money for his research project at Hopkins
with Dr. Snyder being the faculty member that oversaw him, and he had
two research assistants, and the four of them worked together.
MR. MARMON: This was while he was in medical school?
JUDGE BURNETT: Yes. And he developed the signs how to create the nitroxide compound,
the necessary ingredient for enhancing male virility and abilities and
resulted in the patent for Viagra.
MR. MARMON: He’s a patent holder?
JUDGE BURNETT: He’s the number two name on the patent. He gets a percentage. And then
he went on and became a surgeon in urology in prostate cancer as well.
MR. MARMON: Very well known.
JUDGE BURNETT: Apparently in connection with that, he developed techniques which the
urology professors say puts him at the top of the profession. He’s the one
that operated on Senator Bob Dole and, Senator Sarbanes. He’s operated
on many members of Congress and federal judges and, indeed, the King of
Saudi Arabia. He was 90 years old, and he kept him alive until he was 95,
is my recollection.
MR. MARMON: So that’s Arthur Burnett II. Who’s next?
JUDGE BURNETT: Next is Darryl Lawford Burnett, and believe it or not, he was born only a
year after Arthur minus one week, so for one week, they’re both the same
age. I thought giving him the middle name Lawford he would go into law,
but he decided to go into the public health field and medical arena.
He ended up going to Hampton and was very much involved in
political activities and student activities while there. He wasn’t really that
stressed out. He was a B student because he was so much involved in
student activities and so forth. Then he went on to Tulane where he got
ambitious to be a doctor and a public health professional, and he was
enrolled in both schools. In medical school, he was only making C’s, but
making top grades in the public health field. He ended up taking a leave
of absence from medical school and finished in public health where he got
a masters in two disciplines with honors, and then he was going to go back
to medical school when the University of Maryland contacted him and
said are you interested in being a professor here to deal with preventing
future deaths like Lenny Bias’s death. So he was brought in to the
University of Maryland. At the time, he was thinking about transferring to
medical school to finish medical school, and they said we’ll provide
further education, so he decided to go with Maryland and was at the
University of Maryland, and while there, he ended up teaching, also as a
part time student, and enrolled in a combined PhD program, and with the
University of Maryland and Hopkins, and then worked on a Ph.D. degree.
So as a result of that, he ended up, I don’t know how, but meeting
David Satcher. Satcher invited him to be a special assistant when Satcher
was Surgeon General. Then he was going to go back to Maryland, but
then the Secretary of Health and Human Services offered him a job to be a
deputy administrator of community health centers, so he never got back to
Maryland, and today he’s a deputy administrator over all community
health centers in the entire United States.
MR. MARMON: Who’s the next one?
JUDGE BURNETT: The next one is Darlisa Ann Burnett. She dropped the Dar part and just
goes by Lisa. She’s an economist. She went to Howard for
undergraduate, graduating magna cum laude, then went on to Purdue and
got a master’s degree with honors. As a result of that, Ford Motor
Company hired her, and then she’s gone through the ranks at Ford where
she’s a major buyer of steel products for Ford.
MR. MARMON: There’s one more, right?
JUDGE BURNETT: Right. Seven-and-a-half years later, my wife got pregnant. This daughter
ended up being very precocious, being a straight-A student. Dionne
Elizabeth. She had a deep interest in animals. Like the bird man of
Alcatraz, she could talk to the animals, and indeed when she was only
between one and two years of age, she was ready to ride horseback. When
she was a toddler, she would go out to the pasture where we had black
Angus cattle, and they’d come up and nuzzle her like she was a calf. She
ended up becoming a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, went to Yale and
graduated with honors, then went to the University of California at Davis
and graduated with honors. She came back home and ended up being a
veterinarian at a place with the Metropolitan Police Department where
they had a contract to maintain their dogs. Her first job was working with
dogs at the Metropolitan Police Department, and then she decided to go to
New York. In New York, she developed such a reputation that she is
registered as a consultant to surgery of tumors and cancers of small
animals at eight veterinary hospitals and involved with the education
process for the public schools for New York City.
I continue to work with the non-profits and the organizations I’m
working with now to try to reach a point in America where we have true
democracy and respect for individuals based on ability and without race or
religion and so forth and to eliminate the weaknesses in civil rights
protections of all residents of the United States.