October 5

October 5, 1932 – Yvonne Brathwaite Burke

On October 5, 1932, Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, the first African American woman to represent Congress from the West Coast was born in Los Angeles, California. She was elected to Congress in 1973 and served three terms until 1978.

Yvonne burke

Yvonne Brathwaite Burke — member of the United States House of Representatives, representing the South Los Angeles region in California.

Burke is often remembered as the first Congresswoman to give birth and obtain maternity leave while in Congress. She served the majority of her time in Congress on the very important Appropriations Committee. She was the first woman elected to chair the Congressional Black Caucus. Burke decided not to run for re-election in 1978 in order to campaign for California Attorney General. She won the Democratic nomination and was defeated in the general election by Republican State Senator George Deukmejian. In 1992 Burke was elected as the first African American to win an election as an L.A. County Supervisor.

Rep. Yvonne Burke

Yvonne Brathwaite Burke — member of the United States House of Representatives, representing the South Los Angeles region in California.

A year later she was elected as chairperson of the board. Her career continued in the Obama Administration when President Obama nominated her to become the Director of the Amtrak Board of Directors on March 29, 2012.  Burke’s political history has been a series of first including being the first African American woman elected to the California Assembly in 1966 while representing Los Angeles’ 63 District until 1972.  Prior to her election to Congress she was the first African American to serve as a Vice Chairperson of the Democratic Convention in 1972.  Burke received after high school in 1953 her B.A.in political science from the University of California at Los Angeles and was one of the first African American women admitted to the University of Southern California School of law where she received her law degree in 1956.

House Select Committee on Assassinations

United States House Select Committee on Assassinations Representatives Yvonne Brathwaite Burke of California, Harold Ford, Sr., of Tennessee, Walter Fauntroy of the District of Columbia, and Louis Stokes of Ohio were members of the House Select Committee on Assassinations. The committee, chaired by Stokes, investigated the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and President John F. Kennedy.