Saturday, April 25, 2020

'Allegra’s Window' Actor Harry Lawrence Burney, III Passes Away Due to Complications from Coronavirus

Harry Lawrence Burney, III, a New York singing legend who went on to have a productive career that took him around the world, died Saturday, April 18 of complications from his battle against coronavirus. He was 75.


Born Sept. 29, 1944 in Tampa, Burney was the son of the late Iona Mack Burney who retired as a librarian at then Bethune-Cookman College, and the late Harry L. Burney, Jr., a former vice president of development at B-CC and organizer of the United Negro College Fund in Florida.

He was raised in Crescent City, Fla., and graduated from Bethune-Cookman in 1965 with a degree in biology. He also studied at American University in Washington, D.C.

While at Bethune-Cookman, his musical talent was developed in the Concert Chorale. He was also initiated into Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.’s Delta Beta Chapter, following in his father’s footsteps. (The Burney family is one of four families so far who were all graduates of Bethune-Cookman College.)

Burney served as a captain in the United States Army during the Vietnam War in the Medical Corps from 1965 to 1971, when he was honorably discharged.

In 1970, he married Sandra A. Broadnax of Philadelphia, Penn. To this union, their only child, Harry “Chip” Lawrence Burney, IV was born.


While living in Philadelphia, Burney worked as a pharmaceutical representative. B-CC called him back to Daytona Beach in 1972 to appoint him as the director of student recruitment. While here, he became increasingly recognized as a gifted bass-baritone singer and served as artist-in-residence at The Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach.


According to former Daytona Times publisher Charles W. Cherry II, Burney appears often in the newspaper’s archives since the first issue was published in 1978.

“We always referred to him as ‘Harry L. Burney III’ in any story in which he appeared,” Cherry remembered.

“Harry always performed joyfully at any and every place he could locally. He sang at weddings, funerals, family reunions, birthdays, anniversaries, retirement parties. You name it, and Harry was there. And anybody who heard him would never forget that rich, deep baritone voice.”


While living in Central Florida, Burney sang “The Star Spangled Banner” at the Daytona 500. He directed a multinational cast in I Am an American for the National Conference of Christians and Jews in Orlando, and created, directed and produced So You Wanna Be a Star, a program for students with special talents and special needs in Volusia County.

He appeared on Nickelodeon daily in the mid-'90s as “Ellington” and as the voice of "Woofer" in Allegra’s Window and was the acting coach for the network’s comedy series My Brother and Me. Burney also appeared in an episode of Kenan & Kel.


Burney later moved to New York City and enjoyed a long and productive career there.

He participated in the inauguration of New York City Mayor David Dinkins on a program with Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Rev. Jesse Jackson. He also toured with Harry Belafonte, Patti LaBelle and Geoffrey Holder.

His many other highlights included playing the role of “Crown” in Porgy and Bess at Teatro Comunale in Florence, Italy. Several times, he performed the role of “Balthazar” in the New York Grand Opera production of Amahl and the Night Visitors.

He appeared in Ain’t Misbehavin, Showboat, Little Shop of Horrors, and The Devil and Daniel Webster. He played “Jim” in Big River on Broadway, “Troy” in August Wilson’s Fences, and “Hoke” in Driving Miss Daisy.


In 2016, Burney starred in Mary’s Gift, a short film produced by Bethune-Cookman University’s Cat-eye Network and written by Lynn Thompson. Burney was “Mr. Brown,” the fictional attorney of the estate of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, who interpreted her “Last Will and Testament.”

Thompson and Burney are longtime close friends and artistic collaborators. They had more projects in the works at the time of Burney’s death.

“Harry Burney was family,” wrote Thompson in a posting on the B-CU Athletics website. “His mother and my father came from the same neck of the woods and all the kids in our family are heartbroken at the loss of Uncle Harry, this iconic giant. He was so full of passion and love for people and for the arts. We connected on so many levels including athletics because athletics is truly a form of the performing arts and he loved it.”


Burney was a faithful member of The Church of the Intercession in New York City, where he was a soloist and choir director. His was the voice of the church on voice mail.

Burney was predeceased by his parents and sister, Sandra Burney Vanterpool Smalls. He is survived by his son, Harry “Chip” Lawrence Burney, IV; granddaughter Dylan Lawrence Burney, sister-cousin Joyce Hanks Moorehead and her husband Thomas Moorehead; ex-wife Sandra Broadnax Burney-Boxley and her husband Packard L. Boxley; nephew David Lawrence Vanterpool (Felicia) and their children Kendel Madison Vanterpool and Devin Lawrence Vanterpool; and many other relatives, extended family and friends.

The Burney family has planned a private service. A local, public celebration of life is being planned for later this year.

The family has established the Harry Burney Memorial Endowed Scholarship at Bethune-Cookman University for music majors to honor Mr. Burney's legacy. Make checks payable to Bethune Cookman University; Office of Institutional Advancement, 640 Mary McLeod Bethune Blvd, Daytona Beach, FL 32114 with “Harry Burney Memorial Endowed Scholarship” in the memo line.

Visit to see Burney’s performance in Mary’s Gift.

R.I.P. Harry Lawrence Burney, III, September 29, 1944 - April 18, 2020.

Original source: Daytona Times.

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