Charlotte Burks–Sharecropper’s Daughter, Farmer’s Wife, State Senator

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In 1993 our family moved to the Upper Cumberland area of Tennessee. We began hearing good things about Tommy Burks, who served as state senator from our district. Senator Burk’s wife was Charlotte. At our congregation, we got to know Charlotte’s brother James and his wife Patsy. We also became good friends with James and Patsy’s son and daughter-in-law and their three (later four) homeschooled sons.

In the fall of 1998, Senator Burks ran for re-election as usual, but a horrible thing happened. His opponent murdered him at his own farm, right before the election. Democrats and Republicans alike mourned and friends began to encourage people to write in Charlotte’s name on election day. On the first Tuesday in November, just days after her husband’s death, Charlotte Burk’s was elected to the Tennessee state senate.

Last night as Ray and I sat down to eat supper, we decided to watch a documentary that we had recorded. When Ray turned on the television, it was, as usual, on the public television station. We never started our documentary, because a local reporter was interviewing Senator Charlotte Burks, who announced last fall that she would not run for re-election.

The interviewer asked about her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren and about her farm. Senator Burks spoke about the primary importance of her family and of new things she wants to do on the farm when she retires from the legislature. The reporter also asked questions about Charlotte’s work as senator; she talked about trying to finish the work that her husband had begun when he served in the state senate.

In 2004 we bought a little bit of the farm that Charlotte Gentry Burks lived on as a girl. Her brother James bought a whole lot of it. Charlotte, James, their parents, and siblings lived on the farm as sharecroppers when she was a little girl. When she was ten, her daddy, like so many other Tennessee daddies, moved his family to Michigan to work in a job that paid much more than a sharecropper.

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When Charlotte lived in Michigan, she sometimes came back to visit her grandmother in Tennessee. Here she became acquainted with a neighbor boy, Tommy Burks. They married and she became a farmer’s wife–and more.

And let her works praise her in the gates.
Proverbs 31:31, NASB

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