Services held for Carl W. Birks, first Black engineering management grad at MSOE

Written by admin   // October 28, 2010   // 0 Comments

Funeral services were held Monday for Carl W. Birks, who was the first African American to earn a Masters Degree in Engineering Management from the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE).

Birks passed on October 21. He was 79.

Birks was born on February 12, 1931. Birks was the first son born to Walter Birks and Lucille Scott Birks in Detroit, Michigan.

He was a pioneer in everything that he did in life, whether it was his milestone accomplishment at MSOE, to breaking color barriers in the neighborhoods where he lived, or in the workplace… Birks made a difference and always left a positive impact.

Birks was raised in Detroit and attended Wayne State University where he received his undergraduate degree in Chemistry.

Birks then returned to Wayne State to receive another undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering. While there he “crossed the burning sands” into the oldest Black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

He was a life member of the Fraternity. His pride shined brightly when he would sing the Fraternity’s Hymn.

Birks was truly “Black and Gold” to the end and beyond. He also served the organization in a leadership capacity on local, statewide and regional levels making sure that the image of Alpha was never compromised.

A devout Christian, Birks always had God as a priority in his life. Even as a young man at Detroit’s Bethel A.M.E. Church, where he was involved in youth initiatives. Bethel was also where he met his soul mate and future wife, Barbara Juanita Lewis also of Detroit.

As a young adult, Birks served his country in the Korean Conflict and was stationed in Germany during the mid 1950’s as a Sergeant in the Army Medical Corp.

On April 30, 1955, in a private ceremony of family and close friends, Carl pledged his love and life to his soul mate, Barbara.

Since that time, they have been inseparable. She was his best friend and confidant for the past 55 years.

(The couple was also honored a year ago as one of the Community Journal’s “Dynamic Duos.”

From this union, Birks and his wife were blessed with three daughters, Karen Birks Pace (Robert), Gail Birks, Elaine Birks Mitchell (Johnny). Birks also has a son, Stephen Ebert (Maria).

Birks greatest gifts in life were his grandchildren, Courtney Michelle Askins, Angela Kia Pace, Mark Pace, Christos Ebert, Carmen Oezsahin (Goekhan) and Benjamin Ebert. He was blessed with two great grand daughters, Nia Pace, January 2008 and Sophia Oezsahin in August 2010.

Birks’ passion for reaching back and helping others was extraordinary. He founded the St. Mark A.M.E. Church Anvil Karate Club where he educated young people and adults on self-defense, self-respect and establishing their personal goals in life.  He saw a need to celebrate our young Black men in Milwaukee and founded the Alpha Phi Alpha Beautillion, a scholarship event that honors young men who are seniors in high school who have excelled in academics and other areas of interest.  He was also a father to those who did not have one to love them.

Birks was affiliated with many organizations, but was a dedicated member to St. Mark A.M. E. Church where he served as a Trustee, a member of the Men’s Ensemble and the Men’s Fellowship, a Mentor to young men and women, a father to those who had none to call their own and most important, a shepherd for those who sought a relationship with Christ.

October 21 at 9:30am while surrounded by his beloved family, Birks made a peaceful transition.  He is also survived by a brother, Dr. Robert Cremo Birks of Detroit, Michigan, nieces, Cheryl Robin Birks, and Lynelle Georgette Birks Carr (Chris), and a nephew, Robert Steven Birks (James), and a cousin, Susan Ford (Tom). Birks also has a grandniece Christine Carr. He is loved by a multitude of other family members and friends.

While his big heart and enormous laugh will be missed, he will forever hold a special place in all of our hearts. We know that he lived his life his way and that GOD and the archangels are celebrating along with us for a job well done.

Community Journal endorses candidates who will ‘guard the change’

by Thomas E. Mitchell, Jr.

Not since President Bill Clinton’s stewardship has a mid-term election—in our opinion—been as critical and potentially “game changing” in political and legislative tone as the 2010 mid-term races that will come to a climax on November 2.

At stake are the legislative gains garnered by President Barack Obama and the Democratically controlled U.S. House of Representatives and Senate: Healthcare reform, the economic reform initiatives that helped save America’s auto industry and create jobs, Wall Street reforms that curbed the greed of the nation’s wealthiest one percent.

In Wisconsin, the race for governor is just as critical. Our state’s problems mirror that of the country in terms of healthcare, job creation, transportation and education to name a few of the most impactful issues that will face the individual who will replace outgoing governor Jim Doyle.

It’s with these issues facing the nation and state in mind that the Milwaukee Community Journal endorses the following individuals:


We found it mind-boggling that the city’s daily paper endorsed Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker for the state’s highest office.

It’s obvious that Walker’s questionable stewardship of the county, especially its Mental Health Complex, an ever shrinking transportation system which the majority of Black Milwaukeeans depend on and the recent revelation that Milwaukee County is on the verge of a fiscal meltdown didn’t hold enough sway in their choice.

Be that as it may, it’s those questions we have of Walker, including his pledge to derail the high-speed rail project—which would have created hundreds of jobs—and dismantle a good portion of the state’s health program, BadgerCare, that make our choice to be the next governor of Wisconsin very easy…Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Unlike his opponent, Barrett doesn’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The mayor has presented more detailed and sensible plans aimed at job creation and reducing the state’s deficit.

As part of that job creation, Barrett recognizes the value of having high-speed rail in the state. He was instrumental in luring an international company to Milwaukee’s old A.O. Smith/Tower Automotive plant to build a facility that would construct trains that would ride the rails of a new transportation system here and in other states.

It’s that type of initiative that makes us believe Barrett would be a better ambassador to attract jobs than his opponent.

Plus, Walker seems too entrenched in the extremist conservative camp and seems to have fashioned his campaign using the playbook of the Tea Party, whose mantra of “we want our country back!” has an eerie echo of intolerance that reminds us too much of Jim Crowism.

Though many Black Milwaukeeans have expressed dissatisfaction with Barrett since his attempted takeover of the Milwaukee public school system, we think our community would be better served by the mayor than the county executive.

Again, our choice is Tom Barrett for governor.

U.S. Senate

Last week, the MCJ profiled the candidates for governor. This week, we profile the candidates for U.S. Senate, incumbent Russ Feingold and challenger, businessman Ron Johnson.

When you read the article, you will see a striking contrast between Feingold and Johnson.

Feingold is a maverick in every sense of the word. From his quirky, attention grabbing campaign ads during his initial run for the office back in the early ’90s to his opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the Patriot Act, job creation incentives for small businesses, his legislation that put restraints on campaign spending, to his constant battles against pork barrel spending, Feingold’s tenure has been one of fearlessness.

His opponent Johnson, in contrast, symbolizes the perfect Tea Party candidate: Long on criticism of Obama and the current Congress and its legislative initiatives (especially healthcare), but short on specifics as to how they would do a better job.

In our profile of the two candidates, you will see a long list of aforementioned Feingold accomplishments. For Johnson…well, we really had to search hard for any specifics on any issue, especially on healthcare, job creation, the budget and education.

Even his patriotic and folksy campaign television commercials—long on criticism of Feingold and Capitol Hill—are skimpy on the specifics voters need to make an educated decision as to who to vote for.

We’ve seen the job Feingold has done in Washington. And—unlike his opponent—has been highly visible in the African American community talking about issues that resonate with Black voters.

The choice for U.S. Senate is easy. Russ Feingold must be returned to Washington on November 2.

U.S. House of Representatives

Another easy choice is for Congress. Hands-down incumbent Gwen Moore is our choice. She should be the community’s choice as well.

Her opponent, auto mechanic and garage owner Republican Dan Sebring, hasn’t effectively articulated a platform to counter Moore’s accomplishments in office, as evidenced by a recent appearance Sebring made on the WMCS 1290 AM Morning Magazine show with Eric Vonn and at the most recent Community Brainstorming forum.

As a result, Congresswoman Moore has our vote and should have yours too November 2. She should be retained to help President Obama continue the change he promised and so far delivered to the American people.

State Assembly

Just as she did in the September primary election, we expect Milwaukee County Supervisor Elizabeth Coggs to easily win the seat of retiring 10th District Assemblyperson Annette Polly Williams.

When compared to her opponent, controversial independent candidate Ieshuh Griffin (of “NOT the ‘whiteman’s b— ’ ” fame), Coggs hands down has the necessary legislative and political experience (as well as family pedigree) that will allow her to hit the ground running once she reaches Madison.

Our choice to succeed Williams is Elizabeth Coggs.

Wisconsin Secretary of State

Though it’s an office that publishes legislative acts, files oaths of office and deeds for state lands and buildings, David King believes he can make a huge impact if elected Secretary of State over the long-time holder of the office, Doug LaFollette.

King, a minister, activist and founder of the Milwaukee God Squad, said he would use the office to help create jobs, crime prevention and protect the voting rights of state citizens in the military.

Judging from the overwhelming vote difference between the two candidates in the primary (453,000 votes for King to LaFollette’s 196,000), King—who is running as a Republican—may well have every right to feel confident of victory over the scion of a legendary Wisconsin political family.

It well may be time for a change for this office. Despite his party affiliation, we believe David King will put people before party loyalty and bring a fresh perspective and attitude to secretary of state.

Milwaukee County Sheriff

Though many in the community may not agree with Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke’s conservative ideals and stance on social issues, one thing is clear: He has been an effective law enforcement officer and administrator of his office, which oversees the protection of those who congregate the Milwaukee County Courthouse, the county parks, County Jail and House of Correction.

While Clarke’s Republican opponent, Milwaukee police officer Steven Duckhorn is earnest in wanting to reconnect the sheriff’s office to the grassroots, he doesn’t have the experience as an administrator running a multimillion dollar agency that Clarke possesses, a point that was quite obvious when the two candidates spoke at the CBC forum recently.

David Clarke has proven to be a firm but fair sheriff for the county and should receive the community’s votes November 2.

Over the past several weeks, you may have noted our editorials imploring you to vote next month and the reasons why. Simply put, there are political forces at work who want to dismantle the presidency of Barack Obama, which has been a presidency for the people, not special interests.

It is imperative that all eligible voters go to the polls and utilize the most precious privilege of a democracy: The vote!

Too much is at stake—healthcare reform, the stimulus, and various financial reforms—to sit at home and sulk, believing President Obama and Congress hasn’t done enough for them.

We urge you, our readers, to vote and to encourage family and friends who are too apathetic to vote and explain to them why it’s important to do so.

Again, as Rev. Lowry has said: “In 2008 we changed the guard. In 2010 we must guard the change!”

Vote November 2.

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