Services for Charles Thurgood Burns, chairman of the country's largest black-owned and operated supermarket chain, will be held at 7 p.m. Friday at the Morgan State University Christian Center, 4307 Hillen Road.
Mr. Burns, who founded the Baltimore chain of Super Pride Markets and was a first cousin of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, died of a heart attack Sunday at his home in northern Baltimore County. He was 76.
Born in Baltimore, Mr. Burns graduated from Morgan State College, where he played football for four years. He developed a reputation as a shrewd businessman when he owned a chain of pharmacies. The Hilton Court Chain of Ethical Pharmacies catered to the needs of black consumers at a time when white-owned businesses ignored them.
Mr. Burns was thinking about retiring in 1970 when he was recruited to take over a bankrupt supermarket with a handful of ** employees on East Chase Street. He bought the Super Jet Market, changed its name to Super Pride and transformed it into a profitable business by 1973.
The Super Pride chain eventually grew to seven stores with annual sales reaching $43 million, making it one of the county's top 100 black-owned businesses. The markets employ more than 400 people and rankthird in sales among Baltimore-area independent grocers, according to Food World, a trade publication for the retail food industry.
Mr. Burns, who launched the chain with an advertising campaign appealing to black pride, made Super Pride a sponsor of Black History Month activities. The supermarket chain also supported the Arena Players, the Baltimore Museum of Art and co-sponsored the inaugural performance of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre Foundation of Maryland.
Mr. Burns provided scholarships to several area students, allowing them to continue their educations.
He operated a 320-acre farm in northern Baltimore County where he raised cattle, pigs and various crops.
Mr. Burns is survived by his wife, Juanita Johnson Burns; three sisters, Dorothy Randall and Juliet Carter, both of Baltimore, and Lucille Anderson of Virginia; and several nieces and nephews.
The family suggests contributions to the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association or Morgan State University.