School 21

Donald Lee Birden

April 2, 1949 ~ March 7, 2022 (age 72) 72 Years Old


Born in Chicago on April 2, 1949, a twin (brother Ronald), the seventh of Richard and Ruby Birden's nine children. Donald received Christ at an early age and comes from a family who greatly believes in the living God!  His theological foundation was established at Unity Church of God in Christ in Chicago, IL.  He never departed from those teachings.  He worked to provide educational services to underserved students and to make a positive difference in the lives of today's youth --  our future. 

Donald's mother was a teacher in LeFlore County, Itta Bena, Mississippi.  She taught Don to love education.  She and her friends taught and tutored him after school.  Being a member of the first African-American family to move near Chicago Midway Airport, a police escort was required for him to get to school.  Focused on learning, and against all odds, he graduated valedictorian of his class. With God and a great support team he demonstrated that barriers of race, background and color are superficial to achieving excellence.

Don attended DuSable High School.  An outstanding athlete, he was shooting guard for the varsity team, and one of their best players ever.  The crowd would chant his name, "BIRD, BIRD, BIRD," as he lead the team to many victories.  He received a full basketball scholarship to attend college.

He attended Palo Verde College in Beythe, California and later the University of Illinois, Chicago Campus, with a double major in teaching secondary mathematics and secondary physics.  He earned degrees from Wilbur Wright (on a Chancellor's Scholarship), AA in engineering; Chicago State University, BA, mathematics; and National Louis University, Masters of Art, triple major in mathematics, chemistry and physics; Chicago Theological Seminary, Masters of Art in Religious Leadership; and was a PhD Candidate, mathematics education, Illinois Institute of Technology.

Don was a student and tutor in "The Program," a University of Chicago college-prep prototype education program under the leadership of Coach Larry Hawkins.  Still operating, sports are used to increase scholarship opportunities while academic talent and abilities of underserved students are defined and nurtured.  He served as a mathematics teacher at Bishop Noll Institute (a Catholic college prep high school); Instructional Coordinator, Student Support Services, DePaul University; and as Acting Director, Harold Washington Collège Computer Lab. 
Founder of S.E.A.R.C.H (Scholarship, Education, Art, Restoration of Cultural History) Foundation, the mission was to provide scholarship and tutoring to disadvantaged students.  The Birden Group, a research and development company, was awarded two U.S. patents in his name. 

Don was a hard-working, good-hearted and kind person.  During his illness, he continuously received compliments from medical staff members about his uplifting spirit.

He loved a challenge, ran for alderman, and enjoyed the company of people from various walks of life.  Among his closest mentors were the late Rev. Dr. Kenneth B. Smith and Dr. Margaret Burroughs, who often dined in his home. He was acquainted with folks like Former President Barak Obama, Congressman Bobbie Rush, the late Senator Paul Simon, and former president of the Illinois State Senate Cecil Partee; and founder of the Ada S. McKinley College Prep and placement program Silas Purnell. His theological seminary internship was completed at Operation PUSH under the supervision of Rev. Dr. Jeanette Wilson. 

"I will be able to teach students that they have the ability to achieve their dreams if they believe in themselves, work hard, ask questions and  don't be distracted by things going on around them that have nothing to do with what they are trying to accomplish. 

That is, to get good grades and complete their degree requirements.  I am part of the solution, education = power."

Donald L. Birden, July 2010

Donald was preceded in death by his parents, Richard and Ruby Birden; two sisters, Geneva Fleming and Jessie Woods; four brothers, Jake, Calvin, Ron and Richard.  He is survived by his wife, Marilyn, brother Charles (Waukegan, IL) sister, Dr. Clara Williams, (Chicago, IL) and his Aunt Willia Daniels, (Chicago), two step-siblings, Richard and Julia Marie, and a host of nieces, nephews and friends.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Donald Lee Birden, please visit our floral store.


March 17, 2022

10:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Joseph R. Jones Funeral Home
5515 W Chicago
Chicago, IL 60651


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