04/10/09 — Burden, GHS' first black student, dies after long battle with cancer

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Burden, GHS' first black student, dies after long battle with cancer

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 10, 2009 1:46 PM

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Glenwood Burden

Glenwood Burden Sr., the first black student to attend Goldsboro High School on the threshold of integration in 1961, has died. He was 62.

Son Glenwood Burden Jr. said his father had been battling cancer and for the past month had been homebound. He died Thursday morning.

"It really took a toll on him," Burden said. "But he was a fighter. He was in good spirits still. He passed in his sleep, didn't suffer a lot of pain."

And while his father holds a place in Goldsboro history books for being the only black student to attend the city's high school that first year, to his son he was so much more.

"He was a great, great man of character," he said. "He told us that having a great name was more important than having worldly possessions. And of course, having a relationship with God, being a man of integrity. He was a loving father, not only a father but a friend, a very close friend. He was a great example to follow."

After graduating from Goldsboro High in 1964, Burden Sr. took some classes at Wayne Community College and St. Augustine College, but left before graduating because the Vietnam War was going on and he was drafted. He joined the Navy and after four years, settled in Washington, D.C.

He returned to Wayne County in 1970, marrying the former Margaret Wilson soon after. They had two children -- Burden Jr. and Valerie Bartlett of St. Louis, Mo. The couple also have six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Burden held jobs as a truck driver and in retail and for a time worked at O'Berry Center. But it was through ministry that he would find his passion.

He was executive producer of Gospel Perspectives Ministries Inc., a TV program he ran for about 28 years on WHFL, Goldsboro's Christian TV station. He was also editor of the Good News Gazette, a Christian newspaper distributed throughout eastern North Carolina, for more than 14 years, and authored several booklets on "Spiritual Dimensions."

He also loved to fish and will be remembered as a "people person," his son said.

"I can recall when he had gotten sick last year, he said, 'I just want to take a ride, talk to people that I have never met before,'" he said. "He never met a stranger."

The family will meet later today to plan funeral arrangements.

Joe Faison, a long-time friend, can trace his connection with Burden Sr. back to 1972.

"We started hanging out together in a gospel group, The New Goldenaires," he said. "We had great memories together. He was a great friend of mine. We did many things together. We started the TV program together, off of the group."

Burden Sr. was chosen to take the lead because he was most capable, Faison said.

"We knew that he was the one that could really mastermind that type of thing and he has masterminded it all the way through," he said. "He saw things that we did not see and he led things that we had no idea how to lead, but he did."

His friend was also a man of his word, Faison said.

"He saw things that you could only imagine to see," he said. "He saw those things and he stepped out to get them. He worked hard, and he would accomplish things."

Terry Johnson, general manager of WHFL, worked with Burden Sr. for more than 30 years, watching the weekly telecast grow from a half-hour broadcast to an hour program. In the past two years, it went back to a half-hour as Burden's health declined. He estimated that more than 1,600 programs were produced locally through the Christian station, dating back to when it had been Gospel Television Goldsboro, on cable Channel 13.

"One of the greatest things I remember him saying was, 'Tell me something good about Jesus,'" he said.

He called Burden "a prince of a fellow" and said he had spent some time visiting Burden at home earlier this week.

"I came back to the office and told the staff his passing was going to be brief, it's not going to be long," he said.

They enjoyed a good working relationship, Johnson said, calling Burden a great community leader.

"His work and support of so many efforts in mission work -- churches and pastors and evangelists, he was able to bring people together," he said. "That's one of the things about Glenwood I will always remember. For me, to know Glenwood was to know Christ."