James Burke: Disgraced Former Miami-Dade Commissioner Shot Dead by Wife in Georgia UPDATED

In a scandal that rocked Miami-Dade in the '90s, then county commissioner and chair of the county's finance committee James "Jimmie" C. Burke was caught on tape accepting $5,000 in bribes. It was the downpayment on what he thought was a $400,000 kickback in exchange for steering a major bond refinancing deal to a San Francisco businessman. 

In fact, the payoff was a sting. Burke was removed from office and ended up spending 21 months behind bars. 

In addition to serving on the Dade County Commission, Burke also spent time as head of the local NAACP and as a member of the Florida House of Representatives. He was the state's first African-American speaker pro tempore. 

After his release, he eventually retreated to Waycross, Georgia, his hometown. That's where, police say, his wife fatally shot him this past weekend during a domestic dispute. 

Saturday afternoon, Sonia Burke called 911 to report she was having trouble breathing. According to the Miami Herald, when authorities arrived, she pointed them to the bedroom. That's where they found the former commissioner's body. 

Sonia Burke was treated for a possible overdose and then taken to jail on murder charges. 

Sonia was James Burke's seventh wife. According to her Facebook page, the pair's courtship and eventual 2014 marriage was a whirlwind

"On September 28, 2014, I married a most amazing man," she wrote. "He appeared suddenly, stated his case and swept me [off] of my feet. We are two parts of one, and I love him very much." 

Editor's note: After publication, Burke's son sent the following note: 

I appreciate you reporting the good things my dad did for the Miami-Dade community and how he was the area's most decorated black elected official. Above all, he was a wonderful and terrific father. Also, in rebuttal to the above story, he was actually convicted of obstruction of justice, for not reporting that he was offered a bribe. He was not convicted of accepting a bribe. Out of the 12 charges against him, he was exonerated of 11. And originally it was a hung jury on the obstruction of justice charge. If his lawyer had not gone against his wishes and asked the jury to deliver a verdict on the final charge of obstruction of justice, he would have been totally exonerated of all charges. Once again, thank you for at least putting in the positive things about my father and the good he did.

James C. Burke Jr.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.