BURTEN, LONNIE L. JR. (20 Oct. 1944-29 Nov. 1984) was a Cleveland city councilman and community activist who worked towards revitalizing the inner-city. Outspoken, unconventional, and determined to provide decent housing, Burten created the Central Area Development Corporation to finance construction of single-family homes in the Central-Woodland area. Burten's opposition to public housing projects led to his being threatened and burned-out.

Born in Shaw, Mississippi to Lonnie and Grace Arrington Burten, Burten was raised in Cleveland's Central area. He attended Cuyahoga Community College, received his B.A. from Central State University in 1967, and his M.A. from (Clark) Atlanta University in 1971. He was elected Democratic Ward 12 councilman in 1975, unseating 30-year veteran Charles Carr in 1981.

Never married, Burten was a full-time councilman. Instrumental in securing a $255,000 grant fron HUD to build new homes for the inner-city, Burton also used his council salary to buy foreclosed property and renovate the homes, something his ward had not seen in over sixty years. If not working on a home himself, Burten supplied building materials to low-income residents.

Burten's political style put him at odds with Council President George Forbes. In 1976, Burten was suspended for one week without pay for refusing to heed council rules. In 198l, Burten led an unsuccessful campaign to replace Forbes as Council President. Burten rose above controversy to give his constituents the kind of grass-roots, personal representation needed to rebuild the community. At age 40, Burten collapsed with a fatal heart attack while he was dismantling his home. A Baptist, he is buried in Highland Park Cemetery.

Cleveland Public Library Logo

View image at Cleveland Public Library

View photo gallery at Cleveland Public Library


Article Categories