Dr. William Franklin Burghardt, 69, retired chairman of the Health and Physical Education Department at Bowie State College who was a football teammate of President Ronald Reagan at Eureka College in Illinois in the early 1930s, died Saturday at Doctor's Hospital of Prince George's County in Lanham. He died of cardiac arrest following lung surgery.
Dr. Burghardt, who lived in Lanham, first came to the area in the early 1950s to head the physical education department at Morgan State College in Baltimore. In 1969, he joined the faculty at Bowie State College as chairman of the department of Health and Physical Education, and remained there until he retired in 1974.
Dr. Burghardt was a native of Greenfield, Ill. His friendship with Reagan stems from his football days in the early 1930s at Eureka College in Eureka, Ill. Dr. Burghardt played center on the offensive line next to the future president, who played guard.
Dr. Burghardt and President Reagan maintained a close friendship since their college days. In an interview earlier this year with The Washington Post, Dr. Burghardt said of Reagan "We seem to have a mutual respect and admiration. . . he and I drew close and seem to have drawn closer through the years."
He also recalled when "Dutch" (President Reagan) took him and another black member of the team to spend the night at his house because a hotel would not admit blacks as guests.
Dr. Burghardt recalled that Reagan told their coach," 'why don't you give me cab fare, and I'll take these two guys home with me.' He only lived 10, 15 miles away. So that's what he did. I just don't think he was conscious of race at all."
Reagan spoke by telephone with Dr. Burghardt shortly before he entered surgery on Thursday morning. The president also telephoned Dr. Burghardt's wife, Dr. Ida Stevens Burghardt, Saturday from California, a White House spokesman said.
After earning his undergraduate degree at Eureka College in 1934, Dr. Burghardt received another degree from West Virginia State College and a master's degree from the University of Iowa. In 1937 he joined the staff of North Carolina Central University where he was athletic director and coached football and basketball before starting a two-year stint as head football coach at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo., in 1942.
From 1944 until 1950, he taught physical education and was a football coach at West Virginia State College. After receiving a doctoral degree in education at New York University in 1950, he joined Morgan State College in Baltimore.
He was a member of the Pigskin Club of Washington, the North Carolina Central University Eagles Club, and had served on the Maryland council of the American Association of Physical Education, Health and Recreation.
His first marriage to Mayme Ethel Spaulding ended in divorce. His second wife, Vivian Lewis Burghardt, whom he married in the early 1950s, died in 1978.
In addition to his wife, of Lanham, his survivors include a daughter by his first marriage, Claudia Burghardt Morgan, of New York City; a stepson, Walter Stevens III, of Alexandria, and three grandchildren.