Former Baton Rouge Metro Council member Lorri Burgess, a woman Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome called a "passionate advocate for her community," has died.
Burgess, the first black woman to serve as the council's pro tempore for four of her 12 years on the council, died from a protracted battle with cancer, according to city-parish officials.
"She was always a passionate advocate for our community, most recently leading the Sickle Cell Association of South Louisiana," Broome said in a statement posted on her Facebook page. "My most heartfelt prayers and condolences are extended to her family and loved ones during this time."
Burgess served as on the Metro Council from 1997 to 2008, with term limits ending her tenure there. She also served on the Greater Baton Rouge Port Commission and as a board member of several community groups and nonprofit agencies.
She unsuccessfully tried to regain her District 10 Metro Council seat in 2016 from its current holder, Tara Wicker. Burgess was also narrowly defeated by former state Rep. Patrica Smith in her attempts to gain a seat in the state Legislature following her tenure on the council.
District 2 Metro Councilwoman Chauna Banks said Burgess entered the Metro Council at a time when blacks were first breaking ceilings into high-ranking positions within city-parish government.
"She made history becoming the pro tem," Banks said Wednesday. "That's an indication of her ability to lead and be respected across racial and political lines."
Former councilman Ulyssess "Bones" Addison recalled a time when he and Burgess clashed while she served as pro tem, something that was uncommon given their close friendship.
"One day we were having a disagreement on procedure and she just cut my mic off," he said Wednesday. "She was that kind of leader. Even though you were an ally, she took her position seriously and wouldn't let a meeting get out of hand. She stuck by what she believed in."
They made up, Addison said, and maintained a close friendship until her death.
Addison said that Burgess, while on the council, was committed to ensuring expenditures were made not only to her district but the rest of the city's underserved black areas.
"She was firm and a vigorous fighter for what she believed in," he said. "I'm extremely hurt by this loss."