The Maryland House of Delegates will lose one of the chamber’s more vocal veteran members at the end of this term.

Del. Emmett C. Burns (D-Baltimore County), announced July 8 that he will not be seeking a fifth term in Annapolis.

The Jackson, Miss., native has been active in government since 1995, and has seen more than his share of accomplishments and controversy.

“I have no intentions to run for an elected office ever again,” Burns told the AFRO. “After 20 years I think that’s enough. I have accomplished all there is all to accomplish.”

Born Aug. 26, 1940 to Emmett and Clara Burns, a minister and a school-teaching seamstress, the delegate is the second eldest of four boys.

Burns earned his degree from Jackson State University in 1962, followed by a Masters of Divinity in 1968 from Virginia Union University. He completed his doctoral coursework at the University of Pittsburgh in 1974, before serving three years in the U.S. Air Force and rising to the rank of captain.

As pastor and founder of the Rising Sun First Baptist Church in Woodlawn, Burns is also a member of the United Baptist Convention and chair of the organization’s Social Action Committee. He succeeded Medgar Evers as head of Mississippi’s NAACP operation.

The 72-year-old was a key player on several different House of Delegates committees and was deputy majority whip from 2003 to 2007. Burns was also a member of the Joint Committee on Unemployment Insurance Oversight in 2011, and played a key role in changing regulations to protect constituents from losing their insurance without notice.

“I’ve been his seatmate for 19 years,” said Del. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam.

“I will personally miss him because I’m so used to sitting next to him and conversing with him.”

During his time in the statehouse, Burns has often been the source of verbal fireworks over sexual preference. In 2012, the legislator said he opposed President Obama’s support of same-sex marriage and would abstain from voting for any presidential candidate who endorsed gay or lesbian marriages.

He also made headlines when he scolded Ravens’ franchise owners Steve Bisciotti, for allowing linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo to speak publicly as a proponent for same-sex marriage.

Still, the Burns said nothing has shaken his resolve or his beliefs.

“I am unalterably opposed to same sex marriage,” he said, adding that when it came to angry LGBT supporters he was “more afraid of those folk” than when he was the dealing with the “Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi.”

Burns will remain active in politics through the Northwest-Catonsville Democratic Club, of which he is president.

When asked about what’s next in his life, the father of three sons, said he plans to indulge in “family, travel, writings, pasturing, and enjoying life,” because it was never his plan to die in office.


Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer