Black in the Day…In the Heart of the KKK

November 4, 1997:

On this day Chuck E. Burris became the first Black mayor of Stone Mountain, Georgia.

The town of Stone Mountain, Ga., holds the distinction of being the birthplace of the 20th Century revival of the Ku Klux Klan. The Dekalb County town and suburb of Atlanta also made history of another sort, when it elected its first African-American mayor on this day in 1997. The Ku Klux Klan proclaimed its 20th century rebirth on the granite mountain that gives the town its name. For decades white-hooded Klansmen flocked here for annual gatherings, and Confederate heroes are sculpted into the side of the mountain.

On that day, the mayor’s office once held by an imperial wizard of the Klan was filled by a black man, who also lived in the former KKK leader’s house.

Burris grew up in Louisiana, a son of educators, and said he twice witnessed cross-burnings there, one in his family’s own yard.

He studied law at Morehouse College, where Martin Luther King Jr. sometimes lectured to his class. He worked as a crime analyst in the administration of Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first black mayor, and held other city jobs in the 1970s before helping to start a computer consulting firm.

Burris lost a bid for reelection in 2001. He later moved to Maryland with his family to work for Lockheed Martin. Burris suffered from amylodosis, a disease in which an abnormal protein builds in the body’s organs and tissues. He died in February of 2009.

Burris is survived by his widow, Marcia Baird Burris, five children, and several grandchildren. He was 57.

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