Burdette Wants to Jump From King’s Home to Governor’s Office

Greg Markley


John Frank Burdette and his wife Sarah Burdette operated a food store in Roanoke, Alabama, for more than 50 years. John, a highly-decorated gunner and reconnaissance photographer in the Army Air Corps in WWII, died in 1993. Sarah, 101, has lived long enough to see her son, Lew, running as a 2022 Republican candidate for Alabama governor. A kidnapping of the 15-year-old Lew was horrifying, yet the trios’ faith carried them through.

 “December 27, 1974, was a pivotal night in my life that I will forever remember,” Lew recalled. “We all face difficult times in life when we lose hope for a variety of reasons: failed relationships, poor health, abuse, personal failure, etc. We all experience pain, suffering, disappointment and loss; it’s just part of living in a ‘fallen’ world. It’s a bond we all share.”

Young Lew left work at 8 p.m. to meet with his girlfriend. He was accosted outside the family’s store, a victim of violent crime that nearly killed him. He was shot and stabbed multiple times, and then thrown into a well. They thought he was dead, so the kidnappers left. Burdette pulled out and got medical assistance. Doctors said he was only 5- to-10% likely to survive. The kidnappers got three years. One opened a small store … in Roanoke! The second man has died.


Burdette, 62, jumped into the GOP race for governor in January. He is running under the slogan “A new leader with new energy.” His wide business and non-profit leadership and the life-affirming survival of a terrible crime give him mooring. He joins eight other Republicans in the hunt for votes on May 24.

“What was the first thing she (Gov. Ivey) did? asked Burdette at a rally. “Raise gas taxes 56%. It is a forever tax. The tax increases automatically every two years. What is the sense in that? It will be a dollar by the time some of your kids and grandkids are grown.” Burdette, raised in Randolph County told me at the bucolic site of King’s Home, in Chelsea, Alabama, that he would expand health care. “My wife is a nurse; she emphasizes medical needs in rural communities.”

Burdette is embarrassed his home state is the fourth most politically corrupt state. He said disallowing unlimited campaign funding and instituting term limits will go a long way in fighting corruption. Don’t fret too much: My birth state of Rhode Island is only at No. 6. Visiting R.I. in 1904, muckraker Lincoln Steffens said: “Rhode Island is notorious, acknowledged and it is shameful and is cheap.”

“Nobody has influence over me,” Burdette said. “I have self-imposed a $10,000 limit on my campaign contributions. There has not been a decade where a public official has not been convicted and sent to prison or was forced to resign from office. We have a great state. There is no reason to be at the bottom.”

He is a Finance graduate of the University of Alabama. From 1982 to 1985, he was directed Christian Education at First United Methodist Church in Florence, Alabama. Then he worked 13-years with Books-A-Million, holding positions such as executive vice president and chief operating officer. In 1998, he started Kindred, a Christian retail superstore in Birmingham where he was president and CEO.

In 2002, Burdette joined the King’s Home team, serving as president. Lew’s experience in business helps King’s Home manage essential areas such as strategic planning, financial expertise, operations and managing human resources. He gets the most joy at King’s Home in “seeing God restore, heal and transform the lives of youth, moms and children escaping abuse and domestic violence.”

Burdette also did not dilute negative scores the state has received in education (47th place nationwide); in healthcare (43rd place); and in corruption (4th most corrupt state). The Roanoke native said those 40 years after he first saw such statistics, he was shocked to see only a few improvements. On Facebook, he holds a football and notes that Alabamians do indeed love college football.

“Unfortunately, our state ranks last in so many categories off the field,” he said. “If our coaches perform at the level of the current (state) administration, they’d be fired in a heartbeat. It’s time we held our elected leaders to the same standard.

“I had no idea when I was 15 years old that one day I would be running for governor of the great state of Alabama,” he said. “But it all makes sense to me now. I battled for life in that water well, and only survived by the grace of God.”

 Now, 47 years later, Lew Burdette again wants to get someone “out of the hole”: in this case, the good citizens of Alabama.

Greg Markley first moved to Lee County in 1996. He has Masters’ in education and history. He taught politics as an adjunct in Georgia and Alabama. An award-winning writer in the Army and civilian life, he has contributed to the Observer for 12 years. gm.markley@charter.net       


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