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The Honorable Terri A. Sewell

Lawyer and political official Terri A. Sewell was born on January 1, 1965 in Huntsville, Alabama to Andrew A. Sewell and Nancy Gardner Sewell. She graduated from Selma High School in 1982, and received her B.A. degree from Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey in 1986. In 1988, Sewell received her M.A. degree from Oxford University. She then went on to attend Harvard Law School, where she earned her J.D. degree in 1992.

Sewell began her political career working for Congressman Richard Shelby and Senator Howell Helfin. After graduating from Harvard Law School, Sewell served as a law clerk to Chief Judge U.W. Clemon of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. In 1994, Sewell began working at the law firm of Davis, Polk, & Wardwell, where she served as a securities lawyer for more than a decade. She returned to Alabama in 2004 and took a position as partner at the law offices of Maynard, Cooper, & Gale, P.C. Sewell distinguished herself as one of the few African American public finance lawyers in the State of Alabama. Her clients included the City of Selma, Dallas County Water Authority, Alabama State University, and Stillman College. In 2010, Sewell was elected to the United States House of Representatives as a representative from Alabama’s 7th District and as the first African American woman to serve in the Alabama Congressional delegation. Sewell was reelected to the House of Representatives three more times.

Sewell has served in numerous organizations, including as the chair and treasurer of St. Vincent’s Foundation’s board, as a board member of the Girl Scouts of Cahaba Council, as a board member of the Alabama Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, on the Community Advisory Board for the University of Alabama-Birmingham Minority Health and Research Center, on the Governing Board of the Alabama Council on Economic Education, and as a member of the Corporate Council for the Birmingham Art Museum. Sewell has also provided free legal services to the homeless, mentored girls of color through Dreams into Action, and served on the Alumni Advisory Board of Sponsors of Educational Opportunity.

Sewell has been awarded for her successful career and contributions to her community. In 2005, she was named one of the “Top Birmingham Women” by the Birmingham Business Journal. Sewell has also been listed in the magazine, Alabama Super Lawyers, and was named a “Woman of Influence” by Alabama Today. She was also awarded the Minority Business Rising Star Award by the Birmingham Business Journal in 2007.

Terri A. Sewell was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 3, 2017.

Accession Number

A2017.096

Sex

Female

Interview Date

05/05/2017

Last Name

Sewell

Maker Category
Middle Name

A.

Schools

Cedar Park Elementary School

R.B. Hudson Middle School

Selma High School

Princeton University

University of Oxford

Harvard Law School

First Name

Terri

Birth City, State, Country

Huntsville

HM ID

SEW01

Favorite Season

Spring, Fall

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

Beach

Favorite Quote

As A Person Thinks So Is He.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Alabama

Interview Description
Birth Date

1/1/1965

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Birmingham

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken, Smothered Pork Chops

Short Description

Lawyer and political official Terri A. Sewell (1965 - ) was partner at the Birmingham law firm of Maynard, Cooper & Gale, P.C. and was the first African American woman to serve in the Alabama delegation of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Employment

Morgan Stanley

Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, LLP

State of Alabama

Firstone Library

U.S. Congress

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
0,0:544,23:1020,32:1360,38:2788,71:3128,77:3808,89:5984,129:6800,144:7344,153:8228,175:8704,224:10132,246:11084,263:11492,270:15914,303:16334,309:17678,336:18686,357:19358,367:19694,372:21290,398:22214,411:22550,416:22886,421:34158,633:34814,642:35306,650:38340,708:38668,713:39652,730:44271,775:45503,793:49045,871:55904,962:56588,973:58564,1004:59172,1013:64796,1169:67076,1244:67456,1250:69280,1276:71484,1386:72928,1413:73536,1423:73916,1429:74448,1434:86155,1580:89755,1654:90055,1659:90505,1664:91405,1678:93505,1716:93955,1723:100956,1786:101376,1792:102048,1802:102804,1814:103392,1823:104064,1833:107676,1951:111200,1968:111550,1974:112880,2009:116590,2070$0,0:660,11:1122,19:1518,27:2310,44:3036,59:3432,68:4290,91:7260,151:7656,158:8118,167:8580,175:8976,199:14388,307:14652,312:15708,336:16038,342:16764,357:24012,399:24678,409:24974,418:26602,447:26972,453:30006,507:30746,518:31412,539:36543,575:37716,602:48180,769:48660,777:49460,797:49940,804:50260,809:50820,817:51780,847:54420,891:55620,906:60420,991:61860,1014:62500,1024:67280,1031:67805,1038:68405,1068:73938,1202:77020,1222:78292,1251:80023,1265:80394,1273:80977,1287:82970,1294:83408,1301:85598,1351:88372,1399:89759,1425:91146,1460:91584,1467:91876,1472:95964,1519:96256,1524:96694,1589:97716,1625:101847,1644:109432,1701:110161,1712:116176,1796:118154,1812:123410,1859:128522,1960:130470,1965:131360,1976:136998,2038:143978,2104:147362,2176:148010,2187:148586,2200:149306,2213:149738,2220:150458,2234:150818,2241:151250,2248:152042,2262:152546,2270:153266,2291:153842,2299:154202,2305:161668,2354:162500,2364:163436,2375:166890,2401:167808,2419:170020,2437:170740,2448:173220,2484:183679,2655:184327,2665:188610,2731:189100,2739:189450,2745:190715,2804:203070,2960:204870,2984:213697,3124:213981,3129:219448,3247:226464,3352:228204,3397:228987,3408:242118,3599:245930,3643
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Terri A. Sewell's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell talks about how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell describes her mother's education

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell talks about her maternal family's roots in Lowndes County, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell lists her mother's siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell describes her father's early influences

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell talks about her father's legacy

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell lists her father's siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell describes the sights and sounds of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell describes her parents' betrothal

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell lists her siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell remembers her family's reasons for moving to Selma, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell describes her home in Selma, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell remembers her twin brothers' mischief making

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell recalls the start of her education

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell remembers her community in Selma, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell remembers Cedar Park Elementary School in Selma, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell remembers the civil rights leaders in her community in Selma, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell recalls visiting the Selma Public Library

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell talks about her early interest in reading

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell recalls her extracurricular activities

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell recalls trying to fit in at Westside Junior High School in Selma, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell remembers losing her academic awards because of poor conduct

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell describes her achievements at Selma High School in Selma, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell talks about her mother's influence

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell recalls being approached by Julian McPhillips

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell remembers her admission to Princeton University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell remembers her early interest in law

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell remembers enrolling at Princeton University

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell recalls being elected vice president of her freshman class

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell remembers her friendship with Michelle Obama

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell talks about her summer employment on Capitol Hill

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell remembers her time at Princeton University

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell recalls her graduation from Princeton University

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell remembers her bachelor's thesis

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell remembers enrolling at the University of Oxford

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell remembers her production of 'For Colored Girls' at the University of Oxford

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell remembers publishing her master's thesis

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell recalls her experiences at Harvard Law School

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell remembers protesting for a black female professor at Harvard Law School

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell remembers her deferment from Harvard Law School

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell recalls her work after completing her law degree

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell remembers her clerkship under Judge U. W. Clemon, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - The Honorable Terri A. Sewell remembers her clerkship under Judge U. W. Clemon, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

9$8

DATitle
The Honorable Terri A. Sewell remembers the civil rights leaders in her community in Selma, Alabama
The Honorable Terri A. Sewell remembers her clerkship under Judge U. W. Clemon, pt. 2
Transcript
(Simultaneous) Did you have any black friends?$$ I did. I had lots of black friends who were usually friends--they were usually children of my parents' friends. Remember my parents [Nancy Gardner Sewell and Andrew Sewell] were, my parents were educators in the school system. And, and I think middle class black Selma [Alabama] were educators, they were teachers, they were, they worked for the government. They were preachers. And, and so growing up I, I don't think I really realized how poor, or (pronunciation) poor my parents were until I went to Princeton [Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey]. I kind of grew up thinking that we were doing okay (laughter). And, because my parents were well respected in the community, I didn't feel like there were any limitations on my ability to do or be anything. That's a real credit to my parents. But, it's also a credit to the community that nurtured me, and that, that community re- consisted of blacks and whites. And so yeah, so I can remember when the Cedar Park [Cedar Park Elementary School, Selma, Alabama] was integrated. And I also--it's interesting to me, my, my sixth grade teacher was Miss Jackson [Richie Jean Sherrod Jackson]. Well, Miss Jackson I, I grow up to learn that Miss Jackson and her husband [Sullivan Jackson] would entertain Martin Luther King [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] in their house. And Miss Jackson's house was where they gathered to, to you know, to really map the march from Selma [Alabama] to Montgomery [Alabama]. (Gesture) Miss Jackson mi- Jean Jackson my--Jean Jackson who taught me in sixth grade. It's interesting that you can live your life surrounded by people who are legendary in the Civil Rights Movement. I guess growing up in Selma that's, that's--I'm--it never ceases to amaze me to find out about the people who I saw as teachers and my preacher [at Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church, Selma, Alabama] or my you know, the, you know the grocery store owners. And to find out that they were iconic or, or very pivotal in the Civil Rights Movement.$And I took serious when he said, "We're the judge," and he said, "I want you all to brief, brief me on the trials that are coming up." And one of the things that the federal judges have to do, they have to review the social security cases that are on appeals. And so, it's mostly about disability. And I will never forget spending a whole weekend on the first case that I had to brief him on. I concluded that the person who was the plaintiff could walk. That the person did not deserve to have disab- disability insurance. Because, because this, while the doctors all said it in favor of her, I found this special piece of evidence and 'cause I had spent all weekend long trying to. And you know, Judge Clemon [HistoryMaker U.W. Clemon] just, he was awesome. I come in with this you know, twenty page opinion about a social security case, that I had worked all weekend long. And my conclusion was that the lower court, the, had was, you know, the administrative court had--findings were true and that she should be denied social security benefits, disability benefits. So, he looks at me he says, "Sewell [HistoryMaker Terri A. Sewell]," he looks, peers over his glass he says, "I have three questions for you. First, did you go to medical school? What medical degree do you have? Second question, in all of this evidence that you poured over was there medical proof that she had had a disability? That she was disabled?" I said, "Well yes, her doctor said this, but this doctor said that and this nurse said that. This doctor--," so I'm trying to make up. And he says he stops me and he says, "And my final question, how many years did she work for this company? Twenty-three." He closed his book, he closed my, he took my paper and put it in his file, closed the file and he said, "Give the woman her money." The lesson I learned, aside from that I didn't need to spend a whole weekend on a social security case, the lesson I learned was that tremendous power in being a judge and we see evidence, facts through the lenses of our own experience. And that it matters who's, who our judges are. Diversity on the bench is important, diversity not only in gender and race, but in experience. Having someone who's been a public defender as a federal judge or as a [U.S.] Supreme Court justice is important. We see, we see and review facts and evidence I mean, through the lens by which we live our life. So, having judges and having lawyers and having them with different backgrounds and experiences matters. There's a lot that Judge Clemon taught me but I learned a lot that day. And I'm very blessed my dad [Andrew Sewell] had a series of strokes that left him in a wheelchair and I can truly say for the fifteen years that my dad was unable to put up curtains or hang pictures that Judge Clemon really stood, stood in the gap. And I'm very grateful to him for that. And so, when I decided to run for [U.S.] Congress there were two people that I talked to about it before I made my mind up and Judge Clemon was one of them. And he stood by me even thought that I was--that I was raising way too much money and not shaking enough hands. Very--he was very old school politician shaking enough hands, and meeting enough people, knocking on enough doors. Not--I didn't have a big enough sign out there. And he hung in there with me. And I'm a member of Congress today because my mentor believed in me and didn't leave me, didn't leave me all those thirty years ago when I was a law intern, and he hasn't left me now, and I feel very blessed to have him as a, as a, as a mentor and as a, as a, a real father figure.

Diann Burns

Diann Burns was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 29, 1958, the daughter of a Methodist preacher. Surrounded by extended family for most of her childhood, she recalls the support and generosity she received growing up. Her immediate family relocated several times when she was a child, briefly living in Pittsburgh and then Cincinnati, before returning to Cleveland, where Burns remained through college and young adulthood. Diann took an interest in theater and acted during her high school and college years. After pursuing a career on stage, she turned to journalism.

Burns graduated from Columbia University's prestigious Graduate School of Journalism, and worked as a general assignment reporter at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. She then moved on to become a sports editor, photographer and reporter at the black-owned Cleveland Call and Post, and later entered broadcasting with the Independent Network News of New York. In 1994, Burns was named co-anchor of the ten o'clock news at the ABC Chicago affiliate WLS-7, becoming the first African American woman to occupy such a position.

Burns is committed to numerous charitable organizations, most notably the Northern Illinois Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the Support Group, an organization that assists high school students with school work and home life by providing tutorial and social services. She is also involved in the fight against pediatric AIDS.

Accession Number

A2001.006

Sex

Female

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

5/23/2001

Last Name

Burns

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

Lincoln Elementary School

Taylor Junior High School

Cleveland Heights High School

Cleveland State University

Columbia University

Search Occupation Category
Archival Photo 2
First Name

Diann

Birth City, State, Country

Cleveland

HM ID

BUR01

Favorite Season

Fall

Sponsor

McCormick Tribune Foundation

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

God will never put on you more than you can bear.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

9/29/1958

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Macaroni, Cheese

Short Description

Television news anchor Diann Burns (1958 - ) was the first African American woman to anchor prime time news in Chicago on ABC’s WLS-7.

Employment

WPIX TV

WCMH TV

WLS TV

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Brown

Timing Pairs
0,0:762,17:1582,29:2566,43:4042,63:7404,143:15146,243:15857,254:16173,259:17042,274:22296,358:22568,363:23044,371:23928,402:24608,414:30746,497:32038,534:32922,551:34010,558:34282,588:34758,596:35030,601:35370,607:35846,616:37614,667:38430,697:38906,706:43525,761:44120,770:47860,842:53588,935:54758,951:58346,1019:59048,1030:63300,1088:64770,1114:65470,1127:67430,1193:70230,1284:70510,1289:72260,1322:81048,1436:81428,1447:82568,1468:84240,1503:85608,1536:86292,1547:88648,1591:89484,1604:89864,1610:90320,1617:90852,1626:97434,1689:97746,1694:98760,1713:99306,1728:100866,1745:101178,1750:101802,1763:104922,1845:109860,1896:110190,1902:110718,1912:116988,2096:121914,2173:123002,2189:123834,2217:124474,2234:125050,2249:126266,2281:127482,2323:127738,2328:130236,2350:130770,2358:131571,2369:131927,2374:133768,2395:134244,2403:134584,2410:134992,2422:138800,2513:140160,2540:140840,2554:141996,2577:142540,2588:146537,2617:147023,2624:148076,2642:148562,2652:149048,2659:150992,2698:158360,2794:159320,2812:162040,2873:163160,2894:163640,2901:165240,2935:170346,2966:170766,2972:171774,2987:175638,3035:178410,3083:182796,3131:184636,3160:185188,3167:185924,3181:188025,3189$0,0:16140,257:17708,275:18688,297:19276,321:19864,328:24500,361:24792,366:26179,397:26836,416:27712,463:31143,511:31435,516:31727,521:32603,531:32895,536:33260,542:33552,550:40020,596:40252,601:42398,649:42920,660:43210,666:43964,680:44196,685:45356,717:45646,723:46168,744:46458,750:46864,758:47212,767:47734,778:47966,790:48488,806:48778,812:49300,822:49532,827:49996,836:50228,841:50634,850:55983,892:56318,898:57993,941:59132,969:59668,981:61544,1020:62080,1030:62348,1035:63554,1059:63956,1066:64559,1077:65363,1101:65631,1106:66368,1118:66904,1128:70824,1142:71272,1150:71848,1160:72680,1194:72936,1199:76520,1275:76968,1290:80390,1298:81701,1327:82322,1337:84336,1364:87862,1424:88190,1444:88682,1451:93060,1482:102592,1619:103208,1638:108059,1755:108444,1761:109137,1779:109676,1794:112580,1833:114709,1862:115124,1868:115705,1876:122470,1955:123170,1968:124150,1991:124430,1996:125060,2008:125550,2019:126810,2041:127510,2053:127860,2059:128770,2111:129190,2118:129960,2133:130310,2139:135080,2186:135737,2196:136029,2201:136467,2211:137343,2230:138803,2267:139095,2272:139387,2277:140044,2288:140482,2295:140847,2301:141723,2317:143913,2373:144424,2388:147776,2403:148203,2411:148447,2416:148874,2424:150155,2452:150521,2459:150765,2464:151192,2472:156593,2559:157104,2567:160392,2594:161276,2612:161888,2619:162160,2624:162772,2634:163248,2643:164064,2653:164540,2661:165832,2691:166308,2700:166716,2720:172350,2774:179015,2864:179695,2875:180545,2887:181055,2895:181480,2901:196689,3153:198677,3211:198961,3216:199316,3222:200381,3244:203550,3249:204390,3267:204810,3275:205350,3287:206070,3305:206490,3314:206910,3322:208230,3364:209130,3382:211011,3387
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Diann Burns interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Diann Burns lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Diann Burns talks about her mother's origins

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Diann Burns talks about her father's origins

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Diann Burns names her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Diann Burns talks about her earliest memories as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Diann Burns describes the Ohio neighborhood of her youth

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Diann Burns reflects on what it was like being a minister's daughter

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Diann Burns describes her personality

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Diann Burns talks about her personality, her schooling and her sister's death

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Diann Burns recalls her childhood personality and her love for the theater

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Diann Burns talks about her early theater experiences and some of her roles

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Diann Burns talks more about her early theater experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Diann Burns discusses her father's thoughts on her acting career and her decision to go to college

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Diann Burns recalls her decision to transfer colleges and go to New York

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Diann Burns talks about her experiences in New York

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Diann Burns recalls the work atmosphere and racism in her early TV broadcasting career

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Diann Burns recalls her TV broadcasting experiences in New York and Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Diann Burns talks about her early female role models in television

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Diann Burns talks about her news anchor experiences in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Diann Burns talks about her move to Chicago television

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Diann Burns shares her advice to blacks entering the television broadcasting industry

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Diann Burns talks about how she succeeded in the television broadcasting industry

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Diann Burns recalls her job progression at Channel 7 in Chicago

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Diann Burns discusses how she got the prime anchor spot at Channel 7

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Diann Burns talks about the work environment at Channel 7

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Diann Burns talks about the surprises in her job

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Diann Burns details how she met her husband

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Diann Burns talks about her career and her parents' view of her success

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Diann Burns talks about her legacy and shares a story about mentorship

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Photo - Diann Burns at six months old, Cleveland, Ohio, 1956

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Photo - Diann Burns as sports editor for the 'Cleveland Press' newspaper, Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Photo - Diann Burns in a fashion photo shoot, Chicago, Illinois, 1986-1987

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Photo - Diann Burns's senior photo at Cleveland Heights High School, Cleveland Heights, Ohio, 1974

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Photo - Diann Burns in her dormitory room at Columbia University, New York, New York, early 1980s

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Photo - Diann Burns with photographer Art Campbell on assignment in Somalia for WLS-TV, Channel 7, Chicago, Illinois, 1993

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Photo - Diann Burns's maternal grandmother, Mary Newbern and her uncle, Robert Christian

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Photo - Diann Burns and Pam Rubenstein, Cleveland Heights High School, Cleveland Heights, Ohio, early 1970s

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Photo - Diann Burns performing with the Temptations, Chicago, Illinois, 1987-1988

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Photo - Diann Burns with her roommates Sabrina and Gina while a graduate student at Columbia University, New York, ca. early 1980s

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Photo - Peter Jennings, Diann Burns and Alan Krashesky cover the Democratic Convention for WLS-TV, Channel 7, Chicago, Illinois, 1996

Tape: 4 Story: 14 - Photo - Diann Burns's class photo from the second grade, Lincoln Elementary School, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 15 - Photo - Diann Burns in Somalia on assignment for WLS-TV, Channel 7, Chicago, Illinois, 1993

Tape: 4 Story: 16 - Photo - Bill Campbell, Telma Hopkins, Harry Porterfield and Diann Burns host the Bud Billiken Parade for WLS-TV, Channel 7, Chicago, Illinois, 1989

Tape: 4 Story: 17 - Photo - Diann Burns with Co-Anchor John Drury, WLS-TV, Channel 7, Chicago, Illinois, 1990s

Tape: 4 Story: 18 - Photo - Diann Burns's publicity photo for WLS-TV, Channel 7, Chicago, Illinois, 1985

Tape: 4 Story: 19 - Photo - Diann Burns and NBA basketball player, Charles Oakley, 1986

Tape: 4 Story: 20 - Photo - Diann Burns interviewing singer Al B. Sure for WLS-TV, Channel 7, Chicago, Illinois, 1986

Tape: 4 Story: 21 - Photo - Diann Burns's husband, Marc Watts, on the cover of the 'National Association of Black Journalists Journal,' September/October 1996

Tape: 4 Story: 22 - Photo - Diann Burns in a Karamu House performance of 'for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf,' Cleveland, Ohio, 1970s

Tape: 4 Story: 23 - Photo - Diann Burns in the article, "Making it on Merit," by Michael Leiderman for 'North Shore' magazine, January, 1991

Tape: 4 Story: 24 - Photo - Diann Burns with her graduating class from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, New York, New York, 1981

Tape: 4 Story: 25 - Photo - Diann Burns in an article by Jane Ammeson for 'Chicago Life' magazine, Chicago, Illinois, May/June 1995

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Diann Burns talks about her experiences in New York
Diann Burns discusses how she got the prime anchor spot at Channel 7
Transcript
Now how was that experience, living in New York and, you know, going to journalism school, and you know and--? I mean, how was that--and what year are we at?$$This is 19--. I moved there in 1980 and there were a bunch of rules. You weren't allowed to work while you were there. I wrote--I'd applied for a bunch of scholarships. I got a good scholarship from Scripps Howard [Foundation], which I'm thankful to this day. And so I went there in the fall of 1980 and since you're not allowed to work, you really have to focus. And there's a lot of things that you're not allowed to do because they don't want the distractions and they're serious (with emphasis). Though, you know, a couple of people I know were asked to leave and, you know, it's kind of a waste of time. So I hung around, and you learn a lot there. You are forced to, because you're not allowed to bring--you're not allowed to use a car. You're not allowed to take a cab--you have to--they give you a map and they give you the schedule for the trains and buses, and that's how you have to get around. And so you learn the city and you're forced to go right to the same assignments as the reporters from the 'New York Times' [newspaper] and the reporters from the TV stations and you have to come back and do your version and they compare them to what the professionals were doing. You weren't allowed to like call in sick or anything. You couldn't be late. There were just all these rules like you had a real job and it was real and you had to do magazine, newspaper, television, radio. You had to do every job there was in every single facet of media and then at the end, you sort of make a decision. So, I hung around this one TV station in New York, WPIX and I went there on the weekends just to see, 'cause I didn't really get it (with emphasis). I came from newspaper and--you know, they were saying all this stuff about the tapes, and, you know, how to put a story together, but I didn't quite--it didn't really click. So, I went to the station, I'm like, "Can I just like, you know, hang around, you know, practice writing and tell me if I'm really getting it?" And there were some people who were great and they looked at my stories and they even sneaked a couple of them on the air a few times, and I was like, "All proud I wrote that story," you know, and after I graduated, they hired me. And I had decided when I flew on the airplane and moved there that I was never leaving New York. I saw the skyline. I saw the people rushing around, the energy, and I just thought, "This is where I am supposed to be." So, it was really easy for me to be there. I wasn't scared. You know, I took your typical precautions, but I absolutely loved New York and so, I got into it, and when I worked at the TV station, I had an apartment. I had roommates and then I lived by myself for a while, and I just--I worked there for--you know, after I left school. I learned a lotta lot about urban life and just careers and competition and ambition. New York, if you don't have ambition, if you're not competitive, it's not going to happen. And you just get the energy from the people there and you just go.$And, so did an agent play a role in this at all or was it [Joseph] Joe Ahern [General Manager at WLS-TV, Channel 7, Chicago, Illinois], I mean, what do you think?$$Well, you know--me, talking, I mean I'm not the type--the bragadocious type or whatever, but clearly I was the best candidate at the time. I worked hard--I worked hard when I came there. I still work hard, and my thing is, I don't want there to be a tossup. I don't want to go in and ask, "Can I have that job?"--"Can I apply for that job?" I work hard enough so it's clear that if there's a job open, my name is the first name that comes across your lips and across your mind and there's no doubt about it, and from what they tell me, there was no doubt about it. There was never another option. Nobody was ever in the running. I was never competing with somebody that last two weeks or whatever for the job and I don't worry about it. I don't wait 'til there's a job opening or hear about a job opening and work hard until I get it. I work hard because I love what I do and there are always stories to tell and there's always some interesting issue out there, and if there's something better for me to move ahead, I'll move ahead. I'm not the type who says, "You know, one day, I want to do the ten o'clock [P.M.] news." Maybe not. One day, I'll do something else other than what I was doing. Maybe it was going to network, I don't know. But I just worked hard--I worked hard, and I was, you know--and even up to the late day when it was--what year--I mean we're talking the '90s [1990s], and somebody said to me, "You know, it's gonna be kind of, you know, scary for him, I mean--," the General Manager at the time, Joe Ahern, "--I mean can you really (with emphasis) put a black person on the ten o'clock [P.M.] news?" I'm thinking, "Here it is, the late '90s [1990s], and we're still talking about this." And (pause) "What's that?" and, you know, I said, you know, "Who else did you have in mind?" And in that case are we saying, "I shouldn't get the job because I'm black suddenly (with emphasis)?" You know, or, "That job should really go to a white person." What goes through your mind to think something like that? Of course not. So, I told them, "You know what? When you work hard enough and you're smart enough to run a station, you can pick whoever you want to be on the ten o'clock [P.M.] news. But I'm smarter than anybody that is in the running, I'm better than anybody that's in the running, and that's all there is, you know, to choose from. So, I'm not worried about it." And I guess it forced me to be a little more outspoken about my abilities because after a while you just get so tired of people challenging, challenging, when they can see the work you've done. When they can see the work you've done and--to get there educationally. I mean, I've got more on my resume than most of those people do, combined (with emphasis), so why shouldn't I get the job? Why shouldn't I? I didn't sit at home twiddling my fingers about it and, to tell you the truth, they told me as soon as the job was open, I was gonna get it. So, what am I sitting here worrying about, "Oh, should I go up there and ask?" I've never asked for a job in my life because I was the obvious choice, and that's all. If I know I'm working hard, I'm gonna be the obvious choice and that's why I work hard.