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Clarence 'Du' Burns, 84; First Black Mayor of Baltimore

January 14, 2003|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Clarence "Du" Burns, 84, the first black to serve as mayor of Baltimore, died Sunday of kidney failure at Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital.

A native of East Baltimore, Burns spent 22 years as a high school locker room attendant, a job he got through connections with former Mayor Thomas D'Alesandro Jr. He got the nickname "Du" in the 1940s because he was always doing things for people in his neighborhood. He eventually started his own political club, the Eastside Democratic Organization.

Burns was elected to the City Council in 1971 and was president of the council when Mayor William Donald Schaefer was elected governor in 1986. Burns was appointed to fill out Schaefer's term.

After serving 11 months, Burns lost the 1987 primary to Kurt Schmoke.

"He built an organization in East Baltimore that not only won elections but really provided a lot of public services for people," Schmoke said.

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