GALVESTON — Gerald A. Burks died August 21, 2009 at his home at the age of 62. He was born in Youngstown, Ohio to John and Hazel Burks, attended public school and graduated from Rayen High School in 1965. In 1970, he received a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Accounting from Youngstown State University. In 1975, he received his doctor of jurisprudence from Ohio Northern University and subsequently was admitted to the Ohio State Bar and the Texas State Bar.
In addition to being licensed to practice law in two state courts, Mr. Burks was also admitted to practice law before the U. S. District Court for the Southern District, the U. S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U. S. Supreme Court.
He was hired by the late Galveston County Criminal District Attorney James Hury as an Assistant Criminal District Attorney. By the time Gerald left the Criminal District Attorney’s Office, he had become Chief of the Family Law Section and, with Mr. Hury, had appeared before the United States Supreme Court on the case of Addington v. State of Texas, which dealt with this state’s burden of proof in cases dealing with the civil involuntary commitment of mental health patients.
Mr. Burks’s private practice of law began in the 1980s. His extensive practice included the formation of small businesses and accounting systems, the formation of social and civic organizations, individual federal income tax, family law and criminal law, including trials and appeals. During the span of his career, Mr. Burks assisted hundreds and served as legal counsel for the Galveston School Teachers Federal Credit Union for 20 years.
Gerald’s political involvement with the democratic party began as a young man. As time passed, he continued to be involved in the democratic process, which culminated in his election as Galveston County Treasurer in 1994. He served in that capacity for two terms. Gerald was the first Afro-American to be elected to a countywide office since reconstruction.
Mr. Burks’ organizational affiliations included, but were not limited to, the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, Texas State Bar, Galveston County Bar Association, Galveston County Criminal Bar Association, Galveston County Coalition of Black Democrats, and the Thomas Dent Society. He was a past board member for the Galveston County Community Action Council, Inc., Lasker Home for Children, Family Services Center and a current board member of the Nia Cultural Center.
In addition to his numerous family and work related responsibility, Gerald understood the importance of devoting time to help others. He was active with the Boys and Girls Club and volunteered for the Houston area NAACP legal clinic.
Mr. Burks was preceded in death by his parents. He believed that it took a village to raise a child and to his credit he is survived by “his children” Esther Orise of Austin, Toney Wall of Columbia, Mississippi, George Wall (Allison) of Lima, Ohio, Tracey Tuggle of Mobile, Alabama, Cory Burks of Lima, Ohio, Chekesha Burks Brazeal (Shaun) of Woodbridge, Virginia and Leigh Burks (Lee) of Atlanta, Georgia. He is also survived by grandchildren Genesis Brazeal and Micaiah Brazeal, siblings Arthur Burks (Bonnie) of Warren, Ohio, Phyllis Thomas (Sevola) of Edgewood, Maryland, lifelong friend Sally Gadsen of Bethesda, Maryland and numerous other grandchildren, nieces, nephews and extended family.
Gerald was a wonderful person to be around—in just a few minutes you could learn something, have an argument without being angry, and end the conversation full of laughter and joy. Gerald was unique. He will be deeply missed and fondly remembered for his great sense of humor, crooked eyeglasses, love of history, passion for whatever he was involved in, and profound respect for the law.
A Memorial Service is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on Friday, September 4, 2009, at Reedy Chapel A.M.E. Church, 2013 Broadway, Galveston, Texas.