By Eric Woodyard
February 25, 2016
FLINT, MI – Movie star Tony Burton died in California on Thursday afternoon, according to his younger sister Loretta "Peaches" Kelley.
Burton, a native of Flint, was best known for his role as Apollo Creed's trainer "Duke" in the Rocky series.
Kelley said he had been in and out of the hospital for the past year, but never received an official diagnosis. He was 78.
Burton had been living in California for more than 30 years and was just one of four actors, including Sylvester Stallone, to appear in the first six Rocky movies.
Due to his health, Kelley said he wasn't able to see the film "Creed," released in 2015, that was centered on the son of Rocky's rival Apollo Creed.
"There's a scene in the restaurant of that movie (Creed) where his picture is on the wall," Kelley said. "We didn't talk about (Rocky) a lot. I mean we were excited, but other people were more excited. Whenever he would come home (to Flint) other people would just come over."
Burton graduated from Flint Northern High School in 1955. He played football and made All-City and All-Valley teams as a halfback in 1954, while also leading the Vikings baseball team to a city title as a pitcher, too.
Burton won two Flint Golden Gloves light heavyweight titles in 1955 and 1957, then briefly fought professionally before starting his acting career.
"He was a heck of a ball player," said Norm Bryant, Burton's football teammate at Northern. "Tony was just a good all-around athlete."
He also had memorable scenes in the 1970s films "The Shining" and "Stir Crazy" but is mostly linked to the Rocky movies.
In 1993, he was inducted into the Greater Flint Afro-American Sports Hall of Fame.
His son, Martin, died of a heart attack at age 43 on May 8, 2014.
"It's just like someone in my own family passed," said Gerald Moore, a Northern classmate of Burton. "Whenever we got together we would reminisce on old times."
BURTON, Tony (Anthony Burton)
Born: 3/23/1937, Flint, Michigan, U.S.A.
Died: 2/25/2016, California, U.S.A.
Tony Burton’s westerns – actor:
Ransom for Alice (TV) – 1977 (Fish Man)
Bret Maverick (TV) – 1982 (Arthur)
The Magnificent Seven (TV) – 1998 (Tennessee Eban)