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Voting right not lost on Burgess


Last updated 10/25/2016 at Noon

For the Record

Pearl Burgess was born in 1920, the same year Congress passed the 19th Amendment.

That add-on to the U.S. Constitution guaranteed American women the right to vote.

Pearl has exercised that right so much it ought to get a free gym membership.

The Orange native who celebrates her 96th birthday Friday is voting this year in her 20th Presidential election.

“I’ve voted ever since I was able to vote and I’ll vote until the Lord calls me home,” she said recently. “That’s my privilege and I use it.

“Anything that comes up to vote for in our city or my church, I vote on. I’ve made sure I can.”

Burgess has voted by mail for the past few years, after a fall limited her mobility.

“It is very important for us all to vote because we live in the Land of Freedom and we want to stay free,” she said.

The winner of this fall’s election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will be inaugurated in January as the 18th President of Pearl’s life.

Woodrow Wilson was in the White House when she was born.

“I was born in the rootin’, tootin’, shootin’ Cowboy times,” said Burgess, whose family’s story in Texas is no stranger to gun violence.

Starting with Wilson, the list of Presidents in Pearl’s life has included Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Burgess cast her first Presidential vote, in 1940, for FDR’s third term.

“I was married in 1938,” she said. “After that I started voting and I’ve been voting ever since.”

After FDR, Burgess has lived through the presidencies of Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Of course, she didn’t vote for all those guys.

“I voted for the one I thought was best,” she said. “I never voted because I was one party.”

It might be partly genetic that Burgess is so fervent about taking advantage of her right to vote.

She recalls that her mother was politically active.

“I didn’t get out and parade,” Pearl said. “My mother did. I remember her going over here to the courthouse and coming back home and talking about the mud-slinging. That wasn’t anything back then.”

One thing Burgess hasn’t been able to vote for, until this year, is a woman running for President.

In 1984, Geraldine Ferraro ran for Vice President as Walter Mondale’s running mate against Reagan and in 2008, Sarah Palin ran for Vice President on the ticket of John McCain against Obama.

Neither ticket was successful.

But 96 years after the 19th Amendment – 96 years after the birth of Pearl Burgess -- Clinton is topping a Presidential ticket for a major party.

“I was hoping I would” live to see it, Burgess said.

“Women are smart. They’re smart as men. Some of them are smarter.”

Burgess said the 2016 election is unlike any political campaign she has seen.

“We’ve never had an election in my lifetime like what’s going on,” she said. “It’s the worst I’ve ever seen. The worst.

“And I’ve seen a lot.”

A member of the McDonald Memorial Baptist Church since 1931, she said, Burgess said some of what’s she has seen and heard has failed the test of her faith.

“I’m a Christian. And I’ve heard all this stuff going on,” she said. “And if I’m a Christian and then I vote for a candidate that says and has done what the candidate has been doing, how is God going to think of me?”

Burgess, interviewed a few days ago at the home she shares with daughter Beverly and son-in-law Jody Raymer, tried hard not to tip her voting plans.

About Clinton, she said, “She’s not perfect. No one is perfect. No one.”

But in America, all adults have a right to exercise on Nov. 8.

Burgess has put a lot of time and thought into exercising hers.

“I’ll be 96 soon. I’ve seen a heck of a lot of changes,” she said. “You just can’t stand still all of the time. There has to be changes. But we have to be careful what kind of change we’re asking for.”

Her family – three daughters, five grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren – is part of her decision.

“I want the best for my daughters and my grandchildren,” Burgess said. “And we have to think about what’s the best for them when we vote for a candidate.

“We’ve got to pick out the one that we think is the best. And best for the nation. And best for what they will do for our nation.”


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