Yvonne Burke

Born:October 5, 1932 (age 91)
Career:L.A. County Board of Supervisors, 1979-1980 and 1992-2008
U.S. House of Representatives, 1973-1979
California State Assembly, 1967-1972
Education:B.A., University of California at Los Angeles
J.D., University of Southern California Law School

Yvonne Brathwaite Burke was the first African American congresswoman and assemblywoman elected from California and the first female and the first African American member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. In 1973, Burke became the first Congresswoman to give birth while in office and the first to be granted maternity leave.
Burke was born Perle Yvonne Watson on October 5, 1932, in Los Angeles, California. She earned a B.A. in political science from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1953 and a Juris doctorate from the University of Southern California Law School in 1956. After graduating, she found that no law firm would hire an African American woman and so began her own private practice. In addition, she served as the state's deputy corporation commissioner and as a hearing officer for the Los Angeles Police Commission. In 1965, after the Watts riots in Los Angeles, Burke played a key role in organizing the legal defense for those charged in the riots and was appointed to the McCone Commission, which was charged with determining the cause of the riots.
Burke began her political career as a member of the California State Assembly, representing Los Angeles' 63rd District from 1967 to 1972. In 1972, Burke served as vice-chairperson of the 1972 Democratic National Convention, the first African American to hold that position. She served in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing California's 37th District from 1973 to 1975 and the 28th District from 1975 to 1979. She did not seek re-election to Congress in 1978, instead running for California attorney general, losing in the general election. In 1979, she was appointed to fill a vacancy on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors for District 4, but was defeated in her bid for a full term in 1980 and returned to practicing law. In 1992, Burke ran for and won a seat on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors for District 2, serving until her retirement in 2008.
For information on Burke's policy subject areas, committee appointments, and sponsored/co-sponsored legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, please visit her profile on https://www.congress.gov.


History, Art & Archives (n.d.). “BURKE, Yvonne Brathwaite” United States House of Representatives. Retrieved September 19, 2022. https://history.house.gov/People/Listing/B/BURKE,-Yvonne-Brathwaite-(B001102)/