In Memoriam: Former Mayor ProTemp Lorri Burgess, 56
Lorri Ann Burgess, Chief Operating Officer of the Sickle Cell Association of South Louisiana, former Metro Councilwoman, and former Mayor Pro-Tempore and passed away peacefully on January 15, 2020, surrounded by her family, at the age of 56. A native of Baton Rouge, Lorri was born on January 25, 1963. She was the fourth child of Mildred Coats Burgess and the late Howard C. Burgess Sr.
Lorri loved God and confessed Christ as her Savior at an early age. She was baptized by the late Rev. Jesse Davis at Israelite Baptist Church where she participated in the Cherubim Choir and other youth activities. Lorri’s affinity for service to others was evident very early in her life. During her high school years she became a member of the South Baton Rouge Youth Council and Students United for Racial Equality, thus thrusting her into a life of politics and public service. She was a 1981 graduate of McKinley High School where she participated in several organizations, as well as a member of the cheerleading squad. Lorri earned a bachelor’s degree in merchandising and completed a paralegal studies program at louisiana State University.
she was very passionate and committed to the citizens of this great city, especially those in South Baton Rouge’s District 10. District 10 was her home and she invested her efforts into encouraging community development, revitalization, and the enrichment of its residents. Lorri served District 10 as Metro Councilwoman for 12 years, four of which she served in the historic role as the first African American female Mayor Pro-Tempore for the City of Baton Rouge, as well as a member of the Capital Improvements, Finance and Executive Committees. Lorri was committed to public service. This commitment was made evident through the impactful changes she fought for in her community and through her thirst to increase her ability to serve. She served as a Board Member for Louisiana Technology Park, Baton Rouge Center for World Affairs and the Greater Baton Rouge Port Commission. During her tenure at the Port she served as the first African-American chairwoman for the authority. Lorri was also a faithful member of the Louisiana Clinical and Translational Community Advisory Board (LA CaTS CAB) from January 2018 through December 2019 where she had a significant impact initiating and spearheading the Research Ethics and Research Participant Rights Campaign for La CaTS CAB.
In addition, she was a strong supporter of the YWCA Encore Plus Program, Sisters Supporting Sisters-Baton Rouge and HIV/AIDS Education. Some of Lorri’s notable initiatives were the Camp 10 Summer Computer Camp and the Summer Reading Program for elementary children in District 10. She also spearheaded the Sensational Seniors Exercise Program for senior citizens in District 10. In addition, she partnered with Sigma Gamma Rho and Zeta Phi Beta Sororities to offer educational and enrichment programs in writing, language and visual arts for students in East Baton Rouge Parish.
She spearheaded the building of the new Carver Branch Library and had the vision to have the Freeman Matthews Head Start Center on the same property to enhance the early learning experiences of the Head Start Center students. She took the bulk of her surplus office expense funds to purchase big screen television sets, video recorders and other learning tools for all new head start centers in her district. Lorri fought to build and keep the new Highland Road Fire Station accessible to her constituents and was instrumental in getting funding to improve roads and drainage in District 10. She sponsored cleanup campaigns, Christmas parades, health fairs and her signature block parties. The inaugural block party was co-hosted with Shaquille O’Neal. Lorri was the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge Palooza Queen.
She traveled throughout the United States of America, Puerto Rico, Canada and Europe to learn from and collaborate with world leaders, and to expand resources that would allow her to serve her community more effectively. Lorri fought as a staunch advocate for those battling Sickle Cell Disease. Under her leadership as the Chief Operating Officer, the Sickle Cell Association of South Louisiana (SCASL) annually increased its number of participating clients and earned national recognition as the most improved sickle cell foundation in the United States. Lorri extended the reach of the foundation through her unique and innovative fund-raising initiatives such as the annual Ryan’s Run (honorary chair, former Superbowl Champion Ryan Clark) and the annual John Chavis/Eric Reid Golf Tournament.
Lorri leaves to cherish her memory her mother, Mildred C. Burgess, of Baton Rouge, LA; one brother, Howard C. Burgess, Jr. (Iris) of Baton Rouge, LA; four sisters, Joy Burgess Dixon and Celestine Renee Burgess Ruffin, both of Johns Creek, GA; Karla D. Burgess and Marva H. Hastings, both of Baton Rouge, LA; four aunts, Lulla V. Coats, Wilmer C. Barrett (James), Olivet C. O’Connor, and Edna C. Coleman (Charles), all of Baton Rouge, LA; two nephews, Aaron Matthew Ruffin, Esq. of Alexandria, VA; Nicholas Christian-Gerard Ruffin of Johns Creek, GA; two nieces, Kaelah Renee Burgess of Baton Rouge, LA; and Teá Williams, of Johns Creek, GA; five Godchildren, Sgt. Roderic Sterling of Lakeworth Beach, FL.; Errol Monget, Jr. of Thibodeaux, LA; and Bria Guntz, Christian Williams, Elayna Morris, all of Baton Rouge, LA; Godparents, Johnny O’Connor, Sr. and Olivet O’Connor, both of Baton Rouge, LA; a brother-in-law, Demetrius Ruffin of Nashville, TN; two special doobies, Leonard R. Coats and Joseph P. Ashford, both of Baton Rouge, LA; a childhood friend, Judge John Michael Guidry; and a host of other relatives, friends and community supporters. Preceded in death by her father, Howard C. Burgess, Sr.; maternal grandparents, Wilbert L. Coats, Sr. and Celestine B. Coats; paternal grandparents, Clarence Burgess and Delphine Smith; three aunts, Georgia C. Dunbar, Gloria C. Harris, Olivia “Tiny” Holloway; two uncles, Wilbert Coats, Jr. and Dr. Louis James, Sr.; first cousins, Donald Dunbar, Sr. and Reginald Harris