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'A Hero in public, a zero at home': Charlotte man talks about starting nonprofit confronting domestic violence



CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – The A.W. Burgess you see is a different person than the boy growing up in Baltimore, Maryland.

“It was a lot of trauma in these neighborhoods that I lived in,” said Burgess.

Burgess played baseball in Baltimore and became very good; he also played football, but he and his coaches knew being on the diamond would take him far.

“I remember he said, this bat is your paycheck,” added Burgess talking about his mentor. “And I stayed on that from the time he told me that, it was like 13 or 14, all the way up to college.”

Off the field, there was an internal battle brewing. Burgess’ home life was volatile, and there are still scars to battle, like being locked in a dark basement from time to time.

“I wanted to get out of my house; I didn’t want to go home.”

He got out of his house through a scholarship to the prestigious McDonogh School in Maryland, where he excelled on the field and in the classroom after getting a tutor to teach him about the perfect paper.

“I remember she brought me like 14, 15 finished copies of a paper, and I was like, you’ve got 15 papers done, added Burgess. “She was like, no, this is one, and she said the 15 is the final draft.”

Through his work, Burgess was named one of the nation’s top 8 high school outfielders. That led to a full scholarship at Oklahoma State University, but being unable to control his girlfriend in Virginia took priority.

“My mind was all over the place,” he said. “I’m worrying about what she is doing. I look back at it now, and wow, why weren’t you focused on what got you there? Which was your craft.”

Burgess left college two months later and moved to Virginia. He tried to get back into sports, but his skills diminished, and the rage continued, “I literally punched out the front windshield of the car, of the Porsche,” said Burgess recounting one argument. “I remember my hands were bloody, and she was screaming because I wouldn’t let her out of the car. I said you had your chance to get out of the car; this is what you made me do.”

Twenty-eight days into his senior year and a new goal to be an attorney, A. W. Burgess wound up on the other side of the law. He beat his then-girlfriend after she said she wanted to break up with him.

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He made harassing phone calls and held her hostage in a hotel, trying to rekindle the relationship. When he got out of jail for that, he showed up at her college with a gun asking her to take him back. He was charged with felony abduction and possession of a firearm in the commission of a crime.

“Hero in public, but a zero at home,” added Burgess. “A zero to the people that really do care about you.”

Burgess was 36 years in jail, but a judge thought differently and ordered a psychological evaluation.

“Literally where I was, which was the ward with the not guilty with reason of insanity folks.”

The doctor spoke with Burgess to find what he calls the “IT,” the internal turmoil and toxins.

“I’m talking about where I got hit in the head with a telephone,” said Burgess. “Over a card game, an Uno game.”

Thirty-six years reduced 14 months in prison plus therapy. Burgess discovered the root cause of his rage at 22 and began working on it.

“Can it be changed? Yes, I’m proof of that,” added Burgess after being asked why he considers domestic violence an addiction. “But that’s why it is considered a disease because it’s still in me and will always be in me, but I have control over it.”

An organization is helping others impacted by domestic violence. For the last seven years, Burgess has been sharing his story as the CEO and executive director of Family Mankind. He shares his message and says he recognizes the signs of domestic violence, like seeing Miles Bridges throwing his mouthpiece in the crowd after a playoff game and months before Bridges was charged for domestic violence.

“I feel like I let them down because I know what prevents it,” he said. “I know how to prevent it; I know how to get to the root cause of it.”

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We showed Burgess a video of himself in high school.

“I went from being this phenomenal athlete and friend to, you know, he’s a felon; he beats women.”

A zero no longer, A.W. Burgess is a person wanting to help others change. He says so many people are impacted by domestic violence, the abuser to the abused. Whether it’s an athlete or not.

“Either deal with it, or it will deal with you,” says Burgess. “It’s not a matter of if it will happen again. It’s when it will happen again.”

Remember that final paper A.W. Burgess talked about? He says we’re all a rough draft, working to the final edition.

Each version is hopefully an improvement of the previous.

Burgess says he’s still working on himself with the help of his wife and four daughters. So, the final version is not ready to be turned in.

“You have time, but don’t throw away your life and your legacy for something that you can change.”

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