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Published: Tuesday, 10/15/2013

John J. Burkhart [1920-2013]; Chief counsel wrote city’s tough gun control law

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Burkhart Burkhart
HANDOUT NOT BLADE PHOTO Enlarge

John J. Burkhart, 92, former chief legal counsel for the City of Toledo who authored strict handgun-control legislation in the late 1960s, died Monday in Perrysburg Commons Retirement Center, where he lived 2½ years.

Mr. Burkhart, formerly of West To-ledo, died of complications of heart disease, said his son, John.

An attorney in the city law department 26 years, he was responsible for drafting council legislation to control the use of handguns through registration of owners, a move that was prompted by the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, his brother, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

The ordinance, adopted by council in 1968, aimed to get inexpensive handguns off the street. It allowed police to confiscate more than 700 weapons in three years and reduced crime involving handguns. “He was a very strong gun-control advocate and remained so to this day and up to his passing. He really opposed the ownership of handguns and wanted to implement stricter control on illegal handguns,” Mr. Burkhart said.

He also was the chief negotiator in the late 1950s and early 1960s in the city’s annexation of land in Adams and Washington townships, moves that eventually doubled the geographic area of the city.

Mr. Burkhart said Adams Townships officials appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where his father argued successfully on the city’s behalf.

A lifelong Toledo resident, he joined the city law department in 1954 as a prosecutor and became chief trial counsel five years later. He was named chief legal counsel in 1965. He retired from the department in late 1980 and went to work part-time for the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority.

In 1986, he was vice chairman of the Toledo city charter review commission, which rejected a proposed strong-mayor form of government. He and Chairman John Stoepler resigned when the city council ignored the panel’s rejection and put a strong-mayor amendment on the ballot.

Mr. Burkhart grew up in South Toledo. He graduated in 1938 from Central Catholic High School.

He continued his education at DeSales College, earning a degree in political science in 1942. He volunteered for the U.S. Coast Guard and served as a gunner’s mate in the North Atlantic and off the coast of China during World War II.

He met the former Blanche Page at a CYO dance after the war. They were married on June 7, 1947. She died Nov. 25.

He attended law school at Ohio Northern University, receiving his degree in 1948.

Mr. Burkhart said his father established a law practice in the Spitzer Building, where he shared an office with the late Francis “Buddy” Restivo, who was a Toledo Municipal and Lucas County Common Pleas judge.

Surviving are his daughter, Kathleen Coy; sons, Patrick, John, and Michael; 11 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2-8 p.m. Friday in the Sujkowski Funeral Home Northpointe, 114 E. Alexis Rd., where St. Catherine Marian Society will lead the recitation of the Rosary at 5 p.m. The funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. Saturday in St. Catherine of Siena Church.

The family suggests tributes to the church, University of Toledo Athletic Scholarship Program, or Heartland Hospice.

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.



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