A Tribute To Birdge Givens
Birdge Given was born in Jackson, Tennessee on July 28, 1939, the eighth child to the late Jim and Annie Mai Givens. Birdge attended and was baptized at Home Baptist Church in Jackson Tennessee as a child. As a young boy he was well liked by his peers and admired by his elders as a hard worker. From a very young age he was interested in making a few coins. Some of his many jobs included delivering newspapers and delivering groceries for the local store. One of his favorite jobs was as the bat boy for the local negro baseball team who gave him the nickname BAT BOY. Many of his old friends continued to call him by this nickname today. Another favorite was his job as a caddy for the all-white Jackson Country Club which sparked his lifelong love for the game of golf.
Birdge enrolled at Merry High in Jackson, Tennessee where he met his high school sweetheart and future wife, the late Dr. Sandra Neilson Givens in the ninth grade. As a high school senior, he was captain of the school’s winning football team and a beautiful tenor soloist that enjoyed singing. After high school graduation Birdge attended Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri on football scholarship and Sandra went to Fisk University.
Birdge was in the ROTC at Lincoln University and received a bachelor’s degree with a major in Sociology and minor in Economics as part of a pre-law program. After his undergraduate studies at Lincoln University, he received a master’s in arts degree in Personnel and Labor Relations at Governor State University in University Park, Illinois and took courses at Chicago-Kent College of Law.
Birdge and Sandra were married on June 10, 1962, in Jackson, Tennessee. For Birdge, there was no doubt she was “THE ONE” when he first laid eyes on her marching in her white band uniform for the high school band. It was love at first sight for him. Once married, the young couple moved to Fort Carson, Colorado, where Birdge was stationed as a Captain in the U.S. Army as part of the 19th military police company. A Viet Nam Era veteran he continued through his life to live by the Military Police corps motto “firm but fair. In 1964 their first son Franchot Birdge, M.D. was born. In 1967 they moved to Chicago, Illinois and the lovely young family joined St. Mark United Methodist Church where they have remained faithful members over the last 55 years. The Givens family continued to joyfully flourish, and they soon added their one and only daughter, Sonya Rene’ Givens PharmD and youngest son Kevin Neilson (MIS, MBA) followed soon after. Birdge and Sandra cherished their family. On June 10, 2020, the timeless duo celebrated their 58th Wedding Anniversary. Birdge was a man for all seasons, a firm but fair Christian gentleman and a dedicated husband and father.
Birdge began his career in Chicago in 1964 as a caseworker for Cook County Department of Public Aid College. He was offered a position at Wisconsin Steel Works of International Harvester (WSWIH) and later promoted to Personnel Manager, the first African American to hold this position. In this role he negotiated with a powerful steel workers union and United Auto workers union. WSWIH closed and he moved on to be a Senior Personnel Generalist for General Electric and Underwriter/Financial Planner for New York Life Insurance. After his tenure at New York Life, he went to work as a senior manager position in the Cook County Recorder of Deeds office. Later, due to his vast personnel management experience he was appointed as the Associate Administrator/Director of Human Resources at the John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County. Birdge retired from Cook County government in 2007 after 43 years of professional employment.
As a member of St. Mark United Methodist Church, Birdge served in many roles, including 28 years as Program Chairman of the United Methodist Men and three years as President. In his role as program chairman, he brought many outstanding speakers to St. Mark including the late great Mayor Harold Washington. For most of his life he was an avid golfer he was a member of the St. Mark golf team for many years. Birdge was immensely proud of his numerous trophies from tournaments and outings.
It should be noted that Birdge was a family man that was the ultimate provider. He was no stranger to challenging work. Early on, along with working his main job he acquired part-time opportunities. These part time jobs included management positions at the now defunct Avalon, Capitol and Rhodes theaters. Birdge enjoyed taking his children to the movies and showcasing the beauty of these historic theatres on the south side of Chicago.
Birdge not only provided for his family but also believed in helping the youth. Since he worked in employment services, he helped many young people get hired and start their careers at his places of employment. His firmness, big smile and caring nature will be greatly missed.
Birdge is preceded in death by his parents; Jim and Annie Mai Givens; wife Dr. Sandra Ann Neilson Givens, sisters; Lue Dora Burt, Emma Parker, Carrie Bell Ware, Tempie Marie Griffin and Ethel Mae Brown and brother Robert Givens. He leaves to cherish his life and honor his memory: children; Franchot, Sonya and Kevin (LaNeesha); his grandchildren whom he especially cherished and adored, Ava Grace and Nehmiah Juanita; loving sister Bettye J. Goodrich of Chicago, brother Willie Givens (Rosa) of Bolivar Tn, and a host of truly beloved nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.