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Profile: Tim Burke

By France Griggs Sloat

Tim Burke
Bachelor of Arts in political science, 1970 | Chairman, Hamilton County Democratic Party; chairman, Hamilton County Board of Elections; partner, Manley Burke LPA, Cincinnati

Political Junkie | When he was 12 years old, Burke was smitten by presidential candidate John F. Kennedy and knew then he would become a lawyer. “Here was this Catholic candidate for president, and an exciting one, and the whole ‘Ask not what your country can do for you’ thing. He was someone who asked you to become involved as he did and that was real motivation.”

Springboard | While at the University of Cincinnati law school, Burke began working for Jerry Springer, then running for Cincinnati City Council. They met at Xavier when Springer was pushing to lower Ohio’s voting age. When Springer was elected to council in 1971, Burke became his legislative assistant.

Sidetracked | That led to a job on Congressman Tom Luken’s re-election campaign in 1974, which he lost to Bill Gradison. Burke worked again for Luken in his successful campaign against Don Clancy in 1976 but then decided he ought to put his law degree to work. His only bid for public office was in 1978, but he lost to Gradison and has never run again.

Meeting the Man | Burke, the young Democratic lawyer, joined Manley and Associates, a law firm started by Robert Manley, a 1956 Xavier graduate and strong Republican. Burke met Manley at Xavier when Manley was invited for casual talks with pre-law students.

The Odd Couple | It was an incongruous combination, and over the years they were on opposite sides of many issues politically. The most recent was the eminent domain issue dominating local and national headlines. Burke represents cities’ rights, and Manley advocated for the rights of property owners. But they also learned to look beyond their differences and often found themselves in agreement.

This I Believe | “What we did have was a strong belief in this community and that we could make it better. Both of us believed strongly in the obligation of attorneys in particular to be involved in their communities.”

Sad Farewell | Manley was 70 years old when he died in March of a heart attack. “Like with any longtime partnership, we obviously got along well enough to survive more than 30 years together. As I said in the eulogy, I’m convinced we gave him heartburn, but I deny what got to his big heart was me having John Kerry to the office for lunch 10 days before.”

Trail Blazer | Burke rides bikes and tinkers in environmental issues. As executive director of Little Miami Inc., he spearheaded the acquisition of the railroad right-of-way and its conversion into the Little Miami Bike Trail, now 50 miles long.

Good Government | His specialty is local government law. “I do believe that government has an enormous amount to contribute to making people’s lives better, particularly local government. It’s the one that has responsibility for making the overall community better.”

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