This handsome, compact African-American character lead of TV since the late 1970s made his acting debut at age 19 in the acclaimed landmark TV miniseries “Roots” (ABC, 1977). With his large expressive eyes and full lips, Burton’s face convincingly conveyed the terror and rage of enslavement in his stirring portrayal of Kunta Kinte, an African youth captured by slavers after he leaves his village to find some wood to make a drum. The young actor had previously spent four years in a Catholic seminary after deciding to study for the priesthood at age 13. 5Burton became a frequent TV presence during the late 70s and early 80s, appearing in various specials (generally of the “Battle of the Network Stars” variety), serving as a presenter at several award shows and starring in some high-minded TV-movies. Among the latter were “Billy: Portrait of a Street Kid” (CBS, 1977), “One in a Million: The Ron LeFlore Story” (CBS, 1978) and “Dummy” (1979). These early roles share some common characteristics, namely, they capitalize on Burton’s ability to suggest virtuous potential complicated by unfortunate circumstances including poverty, delinquency, illiteracy and physical disability. Lead roles seemed to evaporate in the 80s so Burton shifted to character parts in TV-movies, often playing cops, teachers and other middle-class professionals. He began to concentrate on educational children’s programming and historical specials and TV-movies that celebrated aspects of Black American history. Burton has devoted over a decade to hosting and producing “Reading Rainbow” (PBS, 1982- ), an acclaimed children’s show designed to instill an interest in reading. The show has won many awards over its long run. 5Burton regained widespread celebrity in the late 80s as a member of the intergalactic ensemble of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (syndicated, 1987-94). As engineering whiz Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge, he wore a VISOR (Visual Input Sensory Optical Reflector) to compensate for blindness, ironically hiding Burton’s eyes — one of his strongest attributes. Nonetheless, his Geordi registers as a memorable and likeable character who is everyone’s friend although unlucky in love. Burton also directed several episodes late in the series’ run. He reprised the role of La Forge for the successful feature “Star Trek Generations” (1994), thereby probably ensuring future work in films. 5Since leaving his regular post on the bridge of the Enterprise, Burton had a recurring role on the period family drama “Christy” (CBS, 1994-95) and took on occasional helming chores on the popular spin-offs “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “Star Trek: Voyager”.