The February 28 Distinguished Lecture Series speaker at Lamar State College-Port Arthur will be Emmy- and Grammy-wining actor, author and television producer/director Levar Burton, who first was recognized for his performances in the 1977 award-winning television mini-series "Roots." Burton later co-starred in "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and served as the long-time host of the PBS television show "Reading Rainbow," a show he created and produced, beginning in 1983.
Lamar State College - Port Arthur
Distinguished Lecture Series
Monday, February 04, 2008
Burton was born in Landstuhl, West Germany, where his father, a career U.S. Army non-commissioned officer, was stationed.
At age 13, Burton entered a Catholic seminary to study for the priesthood. Four years later, he changed his education course to theater and later graduated from the University of Southern California.
Burton was a 19-year-old student at USC when he won the role of the slave Kunta Kinte in "Roots."
After the success of "Roots," Burton starred in several television movies, including "Dummy," "Grambling's White Tiger," "The Guyana Tragedy" and "The Ron LeFlore Story." He also appeared on television game and talk shows. But he was looking for roles in which he could help other people.
Burton is a strong supporter of literacy for children. His next TV show, "Rebop," which helped children of all cultures learn to communicate across cultural and racial lines, provided that satisfaction.
"Kids learned a lot through 'Rebop,' " he said. "They could see kids from a variety of backgrounds who lived all over the country and had the same problems growing up as they did."
Burton's work on "Rebop" led him to create "Reading Rainbow," a show that encourages children to read. In the 25 years since the show began, Burton earned two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series and four Emmys as producer of the Outstanding Children's Series.
In 1986, TV producer Gene Roddenbury invited Burton to take the role of blind engineer Geordi LaForge in the television series "Star Trek: The Next Generation. Burton later reprised that role in several "Star Trek" movies.
Burton also found himself behind the camera. He holds the record for directing the most episodes of the "Star Trek" television series.
Since then, Burton has enjoyed a wide range of acting work, alternating between serious historical roles and fantastic fiction themes.
He also earned a Grammy for his narration of the book "The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr."
In his free time Burton enjoys playing poker and often appears on the World Poker Tour.
Previous speakers the LSC-PA Distinguished Lecture Series include former President Jimmy Carter, former astronaut James Lovell, former Polish president Lech Walesa, actors James Earl Jones and Edward James Olmos, Olympic medal winner Cathy Rigby, inner city high school principal Joe Clark, professional basketball star Cynthia Cooper, anti-crime TV show host John Walsh, NPR humorist Garrison Keillor and Animal Planet television star Jeff Corwin.
Distinguished Lecture Series presentations are free and open to the public. Burton's lecture will begin at 7 p.m. in the Carl Parker Center, 1800 Lakeshore Drive on the Lamar State campus.