SWD Black History Month Spotlight: Ernest Burford

Burford 2New Orleans, Louisiana native Ernest Burford serves as Assistant Division Counsel for the Southwestern Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Dallas, Texas, a position he’s held since 2009.

As an SWD attorney Burford works to resolve key issues in civil works, labor and employment, and federal regulatory areas of law.

Black History Month

Before joining the Corps he worked as a litigator at several federal agencies, including the Department of Labor, the U.S. Postal Service, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. His areas of practice include labor and employment, civil works, environmental law, real estate, administrative law and general law.

Burford has been in practice for more than 25 years. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Louisiana State University and a Juris Doctor from Southern University Law Center.

Q. Have you encountered any education challenges or hurdles that you’ve had to overcome to get where you are today?

A. When I attended LSU in the late 70s, the campus was not a place that was welcoming to African Americans outside of the sporting events. David Duke, a Ku Klux Klan leader, was a regular speaker at the Student Union where large crowds of students supported his racist message.

Q. Is there a defining moment from your formative years where you made a personal decision to get the education and experience you need to be where you are now in your career?

A. I attended Catholic schools until I went to college. Without the excellent education I received there, I doubt I would have been successful in my higher education experiences. The first day at my high school all students were asked where they planned to attend college; there was no other option. My friends in public school were asked “what are your plans” after high school. The seed that is planted in a young mind is so important to his or her future success.

Q. Was there someone along the way that inspired you or believed in you more than you believed in yourself? How important was it to have a mentor along the way?

A. My mother, who was an educator. She always emphasized the importance of education and set an example for me by obtaining her doctorate after the age of 40. She made me believe I could accomplish anything I was willing to work hard to achieve.

Q. What advice would you share with teenagers about choosing a STEM related or government service career?

A. You cannot go wrong choosing a career in STEM. It is the wave of the future.  Government service is a great career path. You will be provided opportunities and challenges early in your career that your peers in private industry will only dream about.

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