"I'm sure that Bryan Burwell would have been pleased at the way the Sports Task Force showed its love for him and support for his family during his wake and memorial service Wednesday and yesterday in St. Louis,"Ron Thomas, director of Morehouse College's Journalism and Sports Program, wrote his colleagues in the National Association of Black Journalists on Friday.
Burwell, a longtime sports columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, died at 59 on Dec. 4 after a short battle with cancer.
"I was the STF's official representative," Thomas continued, "and spoke for about 10 minutes at the memorial service about Bryan being a pioneer in our business in so many ways — as a black reporter and then columnist, as one of the first print reporters to cross over to TV, and as a multimedia journalist who mastered the podcast.
"I was so proud of the way black sports journalists showed out for Burwell. From all over the country, here's who I know came to the wake or funeral: J.A. Adande, David Aldridge, James Brown, Mike Claiborne (a St. Louis Cardinals broadcaster), Larry Fitzgerald, Ray Richardson, Bill Rhoden, Stephen A. Smith, Larry Starks, Michael Wilbon and Steve Wyche. In addition, NFL PR directors Tony Wyllie (Washington) and Ted Crews (Kansas City) attended. I apologize if I missed anyone. In addition, many St. Louis sports journalists who are not black, along with Rams coach Jeff Fisher (on a game day), paid their respects.
"There was a long line of Bryan's friends at the wake for several hours Wednesday, and Thursday the chapel, which holds 120 people, was packed, plus about four rows of people standing in the back. Yes, Burwell drew an SRO crowd, and his family truly appreciated it.
"About a dozen people shared their memories of Burwell, some poignant, many hilarious. I want to share with you my closing remark because of all of the comments that were made, I think this is the one Burwell would have been most proud of. It comes from a J.A. Adande posting to our list serve, and it's worth repeating:
"'Just because Bryan has written his last words doesn't mean his voice has been silenced. If you write fearlessly, if you care about the way you craft your sentences, if you can elicit anger, laughs and tears from your readers, if you command the trust and respect of your column's subjects, you'll be writing like Burwell. That's a lofty goal, one worth aspiring to.'"
Mike Claiborne, St. Louis American: Thank you, Bryan Burwell, a friend in so many ways(Dec. 10)