A Message From Mr. Burton

Message from Jimmy Burton:

My sister, Debbie, was born on September 29, 1952 with Down syndrome. The doctors told my parents, Felton and Doris Burton, that she would not live more than 3 years and would never walk or talk. Boy were they wrong. In the 50’s, there were only two choices for parents, either to place their child in an institution or keep them at home.

My parents accepted Debbie as a special gift from God as part of “His greater plan”. Debbie was always included in every activity of our family. One of five children, Debbie wanted to do everything we did, an early sign of the determination she would always demonstrate. Picnics, vacations, games – Dad even designed a pair of skis with a seat and she learned to water ski.

When my brother started school, Debbie wanted to go to school too. Dad asked the School Superintendent to try her in a class. She lasted about three days. There were no Special Ed classes at that time. At this point, my parents along with several other parents devised a plan to have the local school system hire a teacher to teach children with special needs. So a dream begins.

Debbie was one of the first self-advocates for people with disabilities and special needs. Shaking hands with politicians, praying in the legislative chambers and making people aware of the needs of the state’s most vulnerable population.

Burton Center began with five children and a teacher and, today, has grown to serve 1,300 people in Greenwood, Abbeville, Edgefield, McCormick, Lexington, and Saluda counties.

For 48 years, Debbie lived life to the fullest. She loved deeply and worked hard for “God’s plan”. Debbie’s passion, determination, and love for others is why we are establishing the Debbie Burton Society in her memory.

Jimmy Burton