Vivien Louise Francis Burnett died on July 21 at Northwest Hospital Seasons Hospice after fighting a 2.5 year long battle with breast cancer.

Vivien Burnett

Burnett, third child of Beulah Naylor and Louis N. Francis, was born on July 30, 1923 in Philadelphia, Pa. She was preceded in death by her mother, Beulah Vivian Naylor Francis Plummer; her sister, Bernice Calverta Francis Watson; her brother, Louis Naylor Francis; and stepfather, Clinton James Plummer.  Burnett was raised and lived in East Orange, N.J. until she completed junior high school. The family then moved to Baltimore, Md. for high school, college and post graduate education.

Rev. Dr. M. J. Naylor, Vivien’s grandfather, was the first African American to own property on Hillen Road, adjacent to Morgan State College in Baltimore. Growing up, Vivien spent her summers with her grandparents at their home.  

Years later Burnett was elected to the Morgan Christian Center Trustee Board in 1988 and served until 2008.

Vivien received her early education New Jersey. After moving to Baltimore, she attended Frederick Douglass Senior High School and graduated with honors in 1942. She studied at Coppin State College before going on to graduate Morgan State College in 1946. She also earned her master’s degree from the School of Social Work at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Burnett married Sidney O. Burnett Jr. in 1949 two weeks after he completed and passed the Medical Boards for Dentistry. The couple had five children and divorced in 1962. He died in 2008.

Burnett is survived by her four children: Stephanie Vivienne Burnett Gantt, Sydney Arlene Lee (William), Aaron Gregory Burnett (Maria), Sharon Kathy Burnett Thomas. Her daughter Sidney Obed Burnett III died as an infant.  There are nine grandchildren: Nicolette Giovanni Gantt, Hassan Eugene Obed Harris, Jamil Naylor Harris, Maya Annice Lee Newman (Jason), William F. Lee III (Tre, deceased), Erin Andrea Burnett, Alexandre Julian Burnett, Brandon Whitney Burnett (Dana), and Morgann Brittany Thomas. There are eleven great-grandchildren:  Leonard Pierre Funderburk, Julian Trent Funderburk, Armani H. Harris, Jamil Naylor Harris II, Josyanna Harris, Josini Harris, Comanee Harris, Brianna Marie Harris, Hassan Obed Harris II, Jalen N. Newman, and Dylan N. Newman. 

Burnett began her professional career at the District of Columbia Department of Social Services in 1946 while pursuing her post graduate work. She eventually joined the organization full-time and worked there until 1952.

Next Burnett worked for the Spring Grove State Hospital as a psychiatric social worker and eventually became managing social worker. From there she moved to the Baltimore City Public School System and taught at Dickeyville Elementary School, James Mosher Elementary School and Eutaw Marshburn Elementary School. She retired from the classroom in 1992. At the same time she joined Baltimore’s Urban Services Agency as center director for many centers throughout Baltimore from 1973 to 1988.

Burnett served as president of the William H. Lemmel Jr. High School, was president and vice president over a five year span at James Mosher Elementary School, vice president with the Pimlico Middle School and president and vice president at Western High School. As a community activist Vivien created, organized and volunteered in many City and State outreach programs.

Throughout her life, she also held membership with Kappa Alpha Psi Silhouettes, Life Memberships with the NAACP and Morgan State College Alumni M.J. Naylor Chapter which she founded; Morgan University Women, American Heart Association Board of Directors, Morgan Christian Center Board of Trustees, the Weinberg Village I Association Board, and the Chipperettes.

Burnett was a lifetime member at Sharp Street Memorial United Methodist Church and continued the traditions of Sharp Street’s Naylor Hughes Circle.

Public viewing will be held on July 29 at Wylie Funeral Home, 9200 Liberty Road, Randallstown, Md. from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Celebration of life service will be held 11 a.m. at Sharp Street Memorial United Methodist Church on Saturday, July 30, 2016; located at 1206 Etting St., Baltimore, Md. 21217, with a repast at Sharp Street Memorial after entombment in Arbutus Memorial Park, 1101 Sulphur Spring Rd, Arbutus, Md.