Robert L. Burton Jr., former Springfield mayor, civic leader, educator ‘really cared about community’

Robert Burton Jr.
Robert Burton Jr.

He loved his students and the city of Springfield, wife says.

A former Springfield mayor, educator and veteran is being remembered as a “respected community leader and compassionate professor.”

Robert L. Burton Jr., 86, died May 24 after a life of service in the Springfield community. He was elected to the Springfield City Commission in 1971 and served two years before becoming mayor, according to previous reporting in the News-Sun. He was mayor for 10 years.

Burton also served as a captain in the Ohio National Guard for 10 years, taught accounting at Clark State Community College and retired as a CPA, according to his obituary.

He co-founded the African American Community Fund, was a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and volunteered on many boards and commissions including the Interfaith Hospitality Network and Springfield City Commission, his obituary stated.

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Burton’s wife of 28 years, Doris Burton, said her husband loved his students and the city of Springfield.

“He always said that he was born in Springfield, grew up in Springfield and he would die in Springfield,” Doris Burton said.

She also described her husband as a dedicated father who would take his sons on trips when they came to stay with him in Springfield.

“He just smiled and laughed and talked all the time,” Doris Burton said. “He was easy to talk with and people in the community respected him.”

One such community member is Mark Roberts. He first met Burton in the 1980s and eventually became his personal attorney.

“Bob was a very personable man who genuinely cared about the well-being of his friends and his community,” Roberts said. “If he asked you, ‘How are you doing?’ he really wanted to know and would listen to your answer.”

No matter the subject, Burton always loved hearing and telling stories and was up for a good conversation, Roberts said.

Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland said Burton was a key leader in the city’s Black community. He especially remembers Burton’s encouragement and level-headedness in his political career.

Others paid tribute to him on his obituary page.

A bank teller remembered his kindness.

“Mr. Burton was one of my customers at the bank for many years. He always had a smile on his face. He was just always so kind and friendly and saw everything in a positive light. My thoughts go out to his family during this very difficult time. He truly was one in a million,” Rebecca Johnson said.

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One of Burton’s students at Clark State remembers his passion for teaching and his care for students.

“He was very compassionate as a professor and very caring. He was also my tax accountant for many years. When he was at Allen View, I would stop and visit him after his stroke, and we would reminiscence. Very few people have impacted my life, but he certainly did. Fly high my dear friend. You will definitely be missed,” Cindi Byerman said.

Burton is survived by his wife, Doris Clement Burton, his sons Bruce (Tanya) and Bryant Burton; grandchildren, Nikko, Nile and Bryant Jr., as well as Doris’ children and five grandchildren, according to his obituary.

Funeral services were held on May 28 at Jackson, Lytle Lewis Funeral Home with plans for burial at Ferncliff Cemetery, both in Springfield.

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