Ernest Burke


The Early Years

Ernest Burke, born June 26, 1924, was the youngest child of Clarence (b. 1890) and Teresa Mitchell Burke (b. 1896) of Perryville, Maryland. His siblings included Clarence (b. 1910), William (b. 1912), Estella (b. 1921), and Gertrude (b. 1922). At some point, the family relocated to Havre de Grace, but eventually became scattered, as both parents died when Ernest was very young. Beginning at the age of nine or ten, Ernie Burke lived with Mr. and Mrs. Maynard, a kindly French-Canadian family in Iberville, Canada.

Years later Ernest provided an explanation of how he moved to Canada. According to Burke, the Maynards had seen him working, chopping wood, and performing other odd jobs to care for himself in Havre de Grace. They saw his strength and ambition, even as a young child and determined to give him a proper home. Mr. Maynard may have had a connection to the Conowingo Dam, constructed and first put into operation during 1927-29.

At the outbreak of World War II, 18-year-old Burke returned to Maryland to enlist in the US Marine Corps. As one of the Corps’ first black Marines, he fought with his segregated unit in the Pacific Theatre, earning a medal as a Sharp Shooter. When he received an honorable discharge in 1946, his papers referenced his commander’s regard for his excellent character.

An Introduction to Baseball

Ernest Burke began playing serious baseball as a member of the Marine Baseball team while stationed in Hawaii. A “natural” all-around athlete whose team won the Pacific Championship, he played against Johnny Wrigley, who suggested Ernest should consider the Negro Leagues after the service. After his discharge, Burke contacted the Baltimore Elite Giants, a storied Black team that played at Bugle Field in East Baltimore.

In 1947, the 23-year-old veteran joined the team as a walk-on pitcher. In 1948, when he compiled a record of 4-1. Among Burke’s teammates were Junior Gilliam and Joe Black, future Rookies of the year of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Burke played for the Elites for two years, and in South America in the off seasons. In 1949 he joined the Poughkeepsie-Kingston team in Western New York as a pitcher, outfielder and third baseman. In 1950 and 1951 the left-handed hitter/right-handed pitcher played for St. Jean in the Canadian Provincial League, hitting .308 and .258 and sporting a pitching record of 15-3 and 8-8.

A man of many abilities

As a community advocate, he helped orchestrate visits of the Elites to Havre de Grace, where they played local teams. After baseball, Ernest Burke returned to Maryland, working twenty years as a heavy equipment tester for Knox Construction in Baltimore. He took early retirement from the firm to devote himself to the care of grandson Jamal, who had been diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. In his fifties, Burke turned to the sport of tennis and because a professional instructor teaching in clubs in the metropolitan area. Burke also served as a motivational speaker at schools and colleges throughout the region, receiving numerous awards, and becoming the subject of TV appearances and newspaper and magazine articles. Despite his accomplishments, Ernest maintained “what I loved most is the hundreds of letters I have received from young people telling me how much they have appreciated learning about the Negro Leagues.”

Excerpted from Ernest Burke, Professional Baseball Player, Negro Baseball Leagues

From the African American History of Harford County, Pamphlet 0094, May 18, 2018

By Roxann Redd-Wallace with Camay Murphy

Quotes are from Steve Buckman’s interview with Ernest Burke on November 24, 1998.


Ernest Burke Memorial Statue


Life-sized clay model of Ernest Burke by Austen Brantley

The Ernest Burke Memorial Statue has been commissioned and is being created by Austen Brantley, an African American sculptor based in Detroit, Michigan.

The statue will be installed in Millard Tydings Park in Havre de Grace, and will be dedicated on June, 26th, 2021 at 1:00 p.m. All are welcome.

Those wishing to financially contribute to the project can do so by sending a tax-deductible contribution to:

Community Projects of Havre de Grace, Inc.

Ernest Burke Committee

224 North Washington Street

Havre de Grace, Maryland 21078

To read more about Austen Brantley see

Ernest Burke Memorial Timeline

Ernest Burke Memorial Committee formed

Fundraising for a memorial statue begins

City of Havre de Grace pledges support to the project

Ernest Burke Exhibition at the Locke House Museum, Havre de Grace

Harford County pledges support to the project

LSGHA grant received

  • Feb. 2019           Request for Proposals (RFP) offered by the City of Havre de Grace for a memorial statue of Ernest Burke.
  • Aug. 2019           Austen Brantley selected as the sculptor for the Ernest Burke Memorial
  • Nov. 2019           Work begins on the model for the Ernest Burke Memorial
  • Feb. 2020           The model of the Ernest Burke Memorial Sculpture is approved.
  • (The Covid-19 pandemic delays work on the sculpture.)
  • Aug. 2020           Work begins on the full-sized clay sculpture of Ernest Burke.
  • Feb. 2021           The life-sized clay model of the Ernest Burke Memorial Sculpture is approved.
  • The clay model is sent to the foundry to have molds made for the sculpture.
  • May 2021*         Delivery of the sculpture to Havre de Grace.
  • June 2021*         Site in Tydings Park is to be prepared for installation of the Ernest Burke Memorial Sculpture.
  • June 26, 2021*   Ernest Burke Memorial Sculpture to be dedicated at 1 p.m.
  • *Pending dates

Ernest Burke Memorial Committee

Camay Murphy, Chair

Alexis Lynk, Co-Chair

Ray Banks, Vice Chair

Millie McGhee-Morris, Secretary

Bernice Hutchinson, Treasurer
Bonnie Bracey-Sutton

Peter Brooks

Helen Cayer

Jim McFarland

Tony Pagnotti

Lee Parsons

Tamara Sickler

Major Supporters of the Ernest Burke Memorial Statue


City of Havre de Grace

Harford County

Harford County Arts Council

Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway

Exelon Corporation,

St John’s Episcopal Church, Havre de Grace

Allen Fair

Chip Paradis

Community Projects of Havre de Grace, Inc.

Ernest Burke, Professional Baseball Player, Negro Baseball Leagues

African American History of Harford County, Pamphlet 0094, May 18, 2018

By Roxann Redd-Wallace with Camay Murphy

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum eMuseum

Negro League Baseball Players Association