John Leonard Burke Jr., 58, a Washington corporate and real estate lawyer who was briefly embroiled in the Senate hearings over U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, died June 26 of brain cancer at George Washington University Hospital. He lived in the District.
He had practiced law in Washington since 1972, most recently as managing partner of the Boston firm of Foley Hoag. Mr. Burke opened the firm's Washington office in 1985. His specialties were corporate and real estate matters, including acquisitions, divestitures, business and real estate financings, risk management and tax planning. In recent years, he became knowledgeable in the law of electronic commerce. His clients included large financial institutions, law firms and government agencies.
From 1972 to 1980, Mr. Burke worked at the D.C. firm of Arent Fox. In 1980, he joined Wald, Harkrader & Ross, staying until 1985.
In 1991, then-Sen. John C. Danforth (R-Mo.) released an affidavit written by Mr. Burke that questioned the credibility of Anita Hill, who had testified against Clarence Thomas in the Senate's contentious confirmation hearings. Mr. Burke's affidavit stated that he had supervised Hill in 1981, when they both worked at Wald, Harkrader & Ross. He expressed concern that Hill's work "was not at the level of her peers" and that "it would be in her best interests to consider seeking employment elsewhere."
Another attorney from Wald, Harkrader & Ross then released an affidavit strongly disputing Mr. Burke's contentions, saying Hill had never been asked to leave the firm.
Mr. Burke was born in Washington and graduated from St. Anselm's Abbey School in the District. He graduated from Fairfield University in Connecticut in 1967 and received a law degree from Georgetown University in 1971.
He participated in a variety of charitable causes and founded "Where It's Needed," a charity to combat homelessness. He had been a member of the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs for 30 years, serving on its executive committee and as its general counsel. He received the group's outstanding achievement award in 1994 and 2001. He was also an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown, specializing in ethics and professional responsibility.
His marriage to Donna Xander Burke ended in divorce.
Survivors include his fiancee, Catherine A. Allen of Washington and Santa Fe, N.M.; two children from his marriage, Jennifer Burke of Austin and Nathan Burke of Arlington; three brothers, Michael William Burke of Tucson, Chauncey Edmund Burke of Seattle and Brian Martin Lyons-Burke of Gaithersburg; two sisters, Eleanor Burke Gage of St. Louis and Maureen Burke McEntee of Philadelphia; a stepbrother, Dr. Michael J. McGinniss, a member of the Christian Brothers order and the president of LaSalle University, of Philadelphia; and a stepsister, Helen McGinniss Kiesel of Canton, Mich.