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Velma Mace Burks


Velma Burks.jpg

Velma Mace Burks

Source: Armetta Jones & Chauncey Prentiss

Trees are gifts from God and are essential elements in the cycle of life.  Despite what goes on in this world, trees maintain their position of power, lifting up their limbs in humble submission to the Father who has created us all. In doing so, they point our eyes to heaven where the light beams down on all of us, giving us hope, peace and love. On June 3, 1911, a seed of faith was planted on a plantation, by a river, in Panther Burn, (Sharkey County) Mississippi. Through the many days, months and years, this seed would develop into a sapling of service in the form of Velma Mace. Velma was the second child of the late George and Esther Lowe Mace. A leap of faith propelled her family to relocate from Sharkey County, to the Newman community in Edwards, (Hinds County) Mississippi, at the tender age of nine. Her presence in this family ushered forth so much joy and delight and she began to spread her roots and blossom from a sapling of service into a tree. Through the years, her siblings grew closer and closer to her light and love. Velma loved unconditionally and served unselfishly. It was always her aim to enhance the lives of others through patience, perseverance and peace. Her early educational pursuits were achieved in Sharkey and Hinds Counties. Through admiration and prayer, Velma accepted Christ as her personal Savior, at a very early age through the New Oak Ridge M.B. Church. She faithfully served as a member and laborer for Christ, in all facets of her church home and many relied on her resounding resilience, even in the face of adversity. 


On February 18, 1934, Velma was united in holy matrimony with the late Steve Burks, Sr. and her life began to blossom in richness and radiance, as it had done in years past. Velma and Steve were gifted 11 acres to build their first home, by Steve's mother, the late Narsis Stewart Burks, which still stands today. The vision of victory which encircled this couple, was founded on faith, grounded in greatness and anchored in Jesus Christ. The same love and peace that Velma shared with her family, was spread throughout the Burks family as well. For years, Velma willingly raised some of her siblings and nieces and nephews as well. Towering in tenacity, this tree began to spread her roots throughout Hinds County and people from miles around knew of her love and nurturing spirit. Steve and Velma would go on to purchase 102 acres of land off Betigheimer Road, which became known to many as the White place. Currently, this sprawling estate is home to several cattle and horses and is still maintained by the descendants of this union.  


Profoundly prodigious, this beautiful tree nestled by the banks of the river, began to receive wisdom from the waters, sustainment from the soil and satisfaction from the sun. 

The tree would continue to expand its life through the development of several strong branches, that would reach the river and scale the sky.  

Through her union with Steve, eleven branches would extend her life and add to the value and victories of her family. The brilliance and beauty of her tree was characterized and personified through the charity and cheerfulness of Charles, the love and leadership of LueBertha, the mindfulness and majesty of Mary, the knowledge and nobility of Narbell, the excellence and energy of Ellis, the authenticity and admiration of Alonzo, the fortitude and formidability of Florence, the sharpness and strength of Shirley, the vision and veracity of Venetta, the faith and foresight of Phillip and the magnificence and mastery of Melvin. Collectively, these branches have richly enhanced this beautiful tree, which towers on the banks.  Her tree has been embellished with beautiful fruit in the form of countless grandchildren and flourishing with flowers in the form of several generations of great grandchildren. 


Steve, Velma and their children faced many delightful, as well as difficult days. Although the family labored from sunrise to sunset, they still lacked many of life’s necessities. Nevertheless, there was one basic essential that engulfed the roots, and that was love. Their home was a Christian home. All who dwelled within were mandated to attend both Sunday School and Sunday Worship at the family’s home church, Spring Ridge M. B. Church, where Velma faithfully served as a mother. She was a model Christian who exemplified the lofty ideals of Christ and never met a stranger. Her faith was unwavering and unquestionable, and she modeled her family after her admiration for Christ. Everyone knew how much Velma loved fishing and cooking. These were moments that brought sheer delight, second to her time with her family. One of Velma’s most memorable pastimes was gathering her children to watch television at the family’s store, Burks Grocery, to which she was part owner. Eventually, Charles would go on to purchase his family a television that they could enjoy in their home. Velma’s life changed forever on October 21, 1968 with the death of her beloved husband, Steve Burks, Sr. She would go on and continue to grow in grace, while strengthening the base of her tree, ensuring her branches that they shall never be moved. 


On March 9, 1982, God in his infinite wisdom pruned our historical tree and captured the soul of our beautiful matriarch, Velma Mace Burks.  Over the years, branches have been broken, but our roots remain strong. We acknowledge our losses and heaven’s gain through the death of our beloved LueBertha Burks Jones, Narbell Burks Clark, Alonzo Burks, Charles Burks and Ellis Burks. Additionally, our tree has been pruned of fruit of our branches, through the loss of two of her grandchildren, Maurice Yamound and Tamara Nekeda Dodd. Though our tree has been altered through the loss of such significant branches, we are comforted by the fruit they produced and the generations of flowers that are consistently flourishing.  


By observing this tree of tradition and triumph, one can see the timeline of the entire tree and stand in affirmation that God’s grace, coupled with the prayers of our righteous ancestors, will sustain this tree in the many years to come. In totality, the seeds, the roots, the trunk, the branches, the leaves, the fruit and the flowers are all ordained by God, and for this we are blessed beyond measure and eternally grateful.  Like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions, but our roots keep us all grounded together. This is the life and legacy of a Mississippi masterpiece, Velma Mace Burks. 


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