Legand Burge, Jr. (Finding Aid)

Legand Burge, Jr.

1949 -

Favorite Color: Blue

Favorite Food: Fried Chicken

Favorite Time of Year: Birthday and Christmas

Favorite Vacation Spot: Beaches

Interview Length: 242 minutes

Interview Date(s): April 11, 2011

Interview Location(s): Tuskegee, Alabama


Legand L. Burge, Jr., slates his interview and shares his favorites. He then discusses his family history. His mother, Bobbie Jean Bates, was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in 1929. Burge recalls that his ancestors on his mother's side wrote the songs, "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." He also discusses his Chickasaw heritage from his maternal lineage. Bates' father, Clell Bates, is described as a man who enforced discipline in the household, so as soon as Bates graduated from Douglas High School, she left home. Burge's father, Legand L. Burge, Sr., was born in 1911 in Rome, Georgia. His family left Georgia, although they had a successful business. The family settled in Luther, Oklahoma, where Burge's paternal grandfather bought land during the 1889 land rush. Burge discusses his aunt, Los Angeles Burge Joseph, who became a prominent educator in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, during the 1950s and 1960s.

Legand Burge continues to discuss the background of his father and his mother. Legand Burge, Sr., served in the United States military during World War II, as a radar technician. He left the military because he was told that he would not receive any future promotions, presumably because of his skin color. Burge discusses what happened to his grandfather's land in Oklahoma. The land was split between Burge's father and aunt and uncles, but over time, Burge's brother, Kim Lamar, acquired most of the land. Burge believes his parents met while his mother, Bobbie Bates, was working as a cook at a diner named Beverly's Chicken-n-the-Ruff. Burge, Sr., and Bates married and bought a house in Oklahoma City. Legand Burge, Jr. was born in 1949. His parents soon divorced, but both were invested in their children's upbringing and education.

Legand Burge talks about his high school years at Frederick Douglass High School in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. His class was tracked within the network of black schools, and many of his classmates found success later in life. Douglas was strong in both the academic and fine arts programs, and he played the piano at Providence Nazarene Church, where his mother worshiped. Burge's paternal side was musically talented, and Burge considered a career as a musician, studying some music at Oklahoma State University. A high school teacher, however, encouraged him to study electrical engineering because there was no money in music. Burge graduated from high school in 1967 and went on to earn his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from Oklahoma State University.

Legand Burge's parents divorced in 1957, but he explains that it didn't have too much of a negative effect on him. Legand Burge, Sr., remarried Clara Luper, a leader in the Civil Rights Movement in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1963, but they were only together for about one year. Burge lists his high school mentors. He was a good student and also a member of the student council, swim team, and band. Burge talks about some of the trends in black music and mentions his favorite musicians, the Supremes, the Temptations, and the Four Tops. Joe Edwards of the Providence Nazarene Church mentored Burge in choir management. Burge began his studies at Oklahoma State University in 1967 with varying experiences. For example, he experienced racism from an English teacher, but also received support from Dr. Rao Yarlaggada, who would later become his graduate advisor.

Legand Burge details his experience of the death of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. During college, Burge pledged the fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi through Wichita State and Kansas State Universities and became the first president of the Zeta Theta Chapter at Oklahoma State University. He earned his B.S. degree in 1971 and went on to work as a satellite officer at the Sunnyvale Air Force Station in California as part of the Air Force ROTC program. During that assignment he met George H.W. Bush, who directed the CIA at the time. The Air Force offered Burge the opportunity to return to Oklahoma State University to earn his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering in 1973 and 1979, respectively. While pursuing his Ph.D., his personal life suffered, and he divorced his wife Gwenetta in 1977.

Legand Burge lists some of the speakers that visited Oklahoma State University and Langston University during his college years, including Nikki Giovanni and Dick Gregory. Burge conducted his dissertation work under advisor, Dr. Rao Yarlaggada in signal processing, and he had the opportunity to hear James Cooley and John Tukey talk about their research work in 1977. Burge's graduate thesis was entitled, "The Efficient Coding of the Prediction Residual." After earning his Ph.D. in 1979, Burge was selected to attend the Air Force Academy, where he joined the Command and Staff College in 1984. He was sent to work at the Pentagon as a cost analyst under General Colin Powell. Burge coordinated the Research and Development Organization for NATO from 1985 to 1988.

Legand Burge recalls his time as division chief at the National Security Agency, where he was responsible for mid-to-long-term technology. He remembers the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and NATO's response to requests by new member to join the organization. The National Security Agency also played a role in the development of integrated circuit technology, which is applied in many modern devices. Burge talks about attending the Air War College in the early 1990s and the success of some of his black classmates. He then returned to the Pentagon to serve under Secretary of Defense Les Aspin. In 1994, Burge transitioned to his position as commander of ROTC programs at Tuskegee University. Burge became the dean of the Defense Systems Management College at Fort Belvoir, Virginia in 1996 and retired from the military in 1999.

Legand Burge was offered a position at Tuskegee University as dean of the College of Engineering, Architecture, and Physical Sciences after retiring from the military in 1999. Burge nearly quit Tuskegee after his first year due to the heavy workload, but he decided to stay when one student demonstrated his appreciation of Burge. Later, he and his children began the consulting company, L.L. Burge and Associates, and in the interview, Burge goes on to share the success of his children, LeAnn, Legand, Lamuelle, and Lewis. Burge discusses things he would still like to accomplish, including sharing his documented rules for church musicians and his knowledge of how to be an effective university dean. He concludes the interview by talking about his legacy, his hopes for the future of Tuskegee University, and how he wants to be remembered.

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