Sen. David 'Coach' Burkette has worked all his life to overcome adversity and naysayers.
Growing up in Montgomery, during the 1960s and 1970s was a trying time for a young David Burkette, one of 14 children.
“My dad was a carpenter and my mom was a mom mostly, but she worked part-time at Tyson Manor Nursing Home caring for patients,” said Burkette, who recalled his parents instilling in him the value of hard work and team work.
Having attended segregated neighborhood schools, Sen. Burkette was bused to Cloverdale Junior High School in the fall of 1968.
“I was born in the area where Alabama State University is now, it was called Bell-Air. The neighborhood was famous. Nate King Cole lived on St. Johns Street and Martin Luther King lived on Jackson Street,” Sen. Burkette recalled, adding that he remembers seeing Rosa Parks, because she had friends who lived in Bell-Air. “I attended McDavid Elementary School, which is part of the Alabama State campus now.”
Sen. Burkette said he was “looking forward to attending Booker T. Washington Jr. High School, when he was notified he would be attending a school that would be roughly 90 percent white.
“You got teased a lot; spit on; had fights, people used the ‘N’ word,” said Sen. Burkette, who recalled a teacher telling him that he would be “dead or in jail by the time he was 15 years old.”
However, instead of allowing those comments to dictate his path, Sen. Burkette said he internalized them and used those words as motivation to prove that people were wrong about him.
After attending both, Sidney Lanier High School and Jefferson Davis High School, Sen. Burkette graduated in 1976. Soon after, he enrolled at Alabama State University, but said he didn’t take it seriously.
After dropping out briefly, he began working as a substitute teacher while also working full-time in the food service industry.
It was during this time, that he found his calling as an educator and decided to return to school; and, this time, he took it seriously.
After graduating from Alabama State University with a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education and Recreation, he taught and coached at Southside Junior High School in Selma, Alabama; before taking a job in Russell County, Alabama, at Chavala High School.
“I had my first head coaching job at Chavala, and I was the first black to be a head coach at Cloverdale Junior High School in Montgomery, when I was hired by Montgomery Parks and Recreation,” said Sen. Burkette, who also holds a bachelor's degree in health and driver's education from ASU.
Ironically, Sen. Burkette ended up working at all of his post-integration alma maters during his career, having coached and taught at Cloverlade, and Jefferson Davis and Sidney Lanier high schools.
“It was intriguing to come back, but I still faced criticism,” said Sen. Burkette, who holds two master’s degrees in Physical Education and Administration, as well as an Educational Specialist Degree.
However, after teaching for years, Sen. Burkette decided he wanted to do more than teach and coach. He wanted to help his fellow Montgomerians.
“Before I decided I would run for city council, I started going to neighborhood association meetings, county commission meeting, and city council meetings about a year and a half out in order to see if this was something I really wanted to do,” Sen. Burkette said.
Having been elected to three terms (2007-2018) on the Montgomery City Council representing District 4, Sen. Burkette said he began thinking of his next move. He initially considered running for the Alabama House of Representatives. However, he didn’t want to run against an incumbent for the Democratic nomination.
Therefore, when then Sen. Quinton T. Ross Jr., decided to step down to pursue the presidency of Alabama State University, Sen. Burkette was attracted to the wide-open race.
“I saw the opportunity and people just rallied around me to help me get there,” said Sen. Burkette. “Now that I’ve been elected to the Senate twice, I just want to continue in this capacity to represent the people of District 26,” said Sen. David Burkette.
After winning the special election, Sen. Burkette was elected to a full four-year term in 2018.
Sen. Burkette is married to his wife, Linda, and they have two grown children and five grandchildren.
He is a member of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.