By: Rebecca S. Jones
HOUSTON– Zinetta A. Burney is a native Houstonian who was born into an era of segregation in 1941. She was the second oldest of four children birthed to John and Thelma Arceneaux. During a time where Blacks did not receive equal treatment, Zinetta was determined to advance to a level of higher learning. Thus, she completed her high school education by earning her G.E.D. She became a Licensed Vocational Nurse. During this time, Blacks were not allowed to work outside of the Black community. Accordingly, Zinetta began working at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. While continuing to excel in the area of academics, she worked nights and went to Texas Southern University during the day. She recalls this point and time in her life as a struggle, but is still grateful for the trials and tribulations that she experienced. She made up her mind that she either had to sink or swim, she chose the latter. Through a mountain of motivation and overcoming obstacles associated with segregation; she graduated from Texas Southern University in 1968 with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics. After which, she had a desire to pursue a career in Criminal Justice. Therefore, she enrolled into Thurgood Marshall School of Law at T.S.U. After completing her studies at Thurgood Marshall School of Law she sought to go into business for herself, an accomplishment that she remains proud of until this day.
This feat enabled her to establish the law firm of Burney & Foreman, where Attorney Burney was the Senior Partner. The firm concentrated in the areas of Public Finance and Public Securities. It was during her practice as an attorney that she developed a dominant presence and became familiar with the residents of the Acres Home community, where the practice was established. She is known throughout the community as being an advocate for civil rights, and she has extended help and assistance to those who have been unable to afford quality legal representation on various occasions. After thirty years of practicing law, Burney made a decision to run for judge. Ultimately, she was successful in running for the office and since that time she has served as Special Judge for divers Harris County Criminal Courts.
She became the presiding judge of Harris County Justice of the Peace Court (Precinct 7, Place 2) on January 1, 2005. When asked of her greatest concern for the Black community, Judge Burney responded by explaining the importance of citizens exercising their right to vote. Judge Burney’s affiliations and past services include: the University of Houston System Board of Regents (having been appointed by Governor Ann Richards), Board of Commissioners for the Housing Authority of the City of Houston, Mayor Lee P. Brown’s Transition Coordinating Committee, and Boards of the United Way of Texas Gulf Coast, among other affiliations. She is currently a member of the Board of Directors of Third Ward Redevelopment Council, South Main Center Association, Main Street Coalition, Old Spanish Trail/Almeda Corridors Redevelopment Authority.
Additionally, Zinetta has received numerous awards and has also been recognized by the City of Houston, NAACP -Alex Award, United Negro College Fund, Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Houston Black Firefighters Association and Texas Legislative Black Caucus. Judge Zinetta Burney is also the proud mother of Sharon Maria Burney. African-AmericanNews&Issues salutes the Honorable Zinetta A. Burney and we declare that she is the “The People’s Judge”!