Al Burt was born in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1927. While attending the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications he wrote for the Independent Florida Alligator.
Burt worked for the Atlanta Journal and The Jacksonville Journal before joining Miami Herald in the early 1950s as a sports writer. Burt was considered a specialist in Latin America and the Caribbean affairs and wrote extensively about Fidel Castro and Cuba.
In 1965 he was covering the civil war in the Dominican Republic. It was later reported: "According to friends and colleagues, Burt and a Herald photographer, Doug Kennedy, were in a taxi in Santo Domingo when they came upon a U.S. Marine checkpoint. The reasons are unclear, but the Marines felt threatened and fired rifles and machine guns at the taxi, severely injuring both passengers... The Marines immediately realized the mistake and rushed Burt and Kennedy to Washington D.C. for medical care and extensive convalescence. Jo Werne, who worked on the Miami Herald, said that when he eventually returned to work he was forced to walk with the aid of a cane.
Al Burt wrote three books with Bernard Diederich, a journalist who was staff foreign correspondent for the Time-Life News: Papa Doc: The Truth About Haiti Today (1969), Papa Doc: Haiti and Its Dictator (1970) and Somoza and the Legacy of U.S. Involvement in Central America (2007). Other books by Burt include Becalmed in the Mullet Latitudes (1984), Al Burt's Florida (1997), and The Tropic of Cracker (1999).
In her book, A Farewell to Justice (2005) Joan Mellen argues that Burt worked as a CIA asset and was given the code-name AMCARBON-2. On 8th September, 2005, Larry Hancock speculated on the Education Forum that Hal Hendrix was AMCARBON-1 and Don Bohning was AMCARBON-3.
In an article published on 6th August 2007, David Talbot, argued that AMCARBON was the cryptonym that the CIA used to identify friendly reporters and editors who covered Cuba. Talbot found a declassified CIA memo dated 9th April, 1964 that showed that the CIA’s covert media campaign in Miami aimed “to work out a relationship with [South Florida] news media which would insure that they did not turn the publicity spotlight on those [CIA] activities in South Florida which might come to their attention...and give [the CIA’s Miami station] an outlet into the press which could be used for surfacing certain select propaganda items.” (CIA Document)
On 6th October 2005, Don Bohning abmitted on the Education Forum in reply to Larry Hancock: "I have obtained the document about the JMWave relationship with the Miami Herald and references to AMCARBON-2, AMCARBON-3, etc., etc. As you noted, it is very confusing but it seems quite clear to me that AMCARBON-2 was probably Al Burt, my predecessor as Latin America editor at the Miami Herald. I have no idea who might have been AMCARBON-1 or Identity, 2, etc. even what they refer to. I also have obtained documents that clearly state that I was AMCARBON-3, something I was not previously aware of."
Al Burt died on 29th November, 2008.
Al Burt, a Melrose resident and distinguished Florida journalist, died Saturday in Jacksonville. He was 81.
Burt, a University of Florida graduate, worked as a journalist for 45 years and retired from the Miami Herald, where he served as a sports writer, news reporter, editor, editorial writer and columnist.
He reported from Latin America, including the Dominican Republic.
In 1965, during the civil war there, he was nearly killed in a tragic accident.
According to friends and colleagues, Burt and a Herald photographer, Doug Kennedy, were in a taxi in Santo Domingo when they came upon a U.S. Marine checkpoint.
The reasons are unclear, but the Marines felt threatened and fired rifles and machine guns at the taxi, severely injuring both passengers.
"The whole newsroom went into shock. We didn't know if they were going to live," recalled Jo Werne, 68, who was in the Miami newsroom that day working on the Herald's Latin America desk. The paper published a front-page story about the accident.
The Marines immediately realized the mistake and rushed Burt and Kennedy to Washington D.C. for medical care and extensive convalescence.
Werne recalled Burt's bravery and strong spirit when he eventually returned to work, walking with the aid of a cane.
Burt graduated from the UF College of Journalism and Communications in 1949. He wrote for the Independent Florida Alligator during his student days.
Burt worked for United Press International, the Atlanta Journal and the Jacksonville Journal, but he is best remembered for his 40-plus years at the Herald, where he started in the 1950s as a sports writer and worked his way up to the post of Latin America editor.
In 1974, years after the near-fatal shooting, Burt and his wife, Gloria, moved from Miami to Melrose. He spent the following years roaming Florida, writing columns for the Herald about the people he met and the things he saw.
In many ways, Burt "became the voice of Florida" through those columns, said the Herald's current executive editor, Anders Gyllenhaal, who described Burt as a "magnificent writer" and, more important, a "dedicated reporter."
In 2002, UF's College of Journalism and Communications included Burt among its "alumni of distinction." He also is in the Alligator Hall of Fame.
Burt was a guest speaker in journalism classes and at Alligator banquets and was always loyal to the college and the paper, said Jean Chance, a professor emeritus.
She first met Burt in the summer of 1960, when she was a UF student interning at the Herald. They got to know each other better years later, when she was on faculty, and Chance said she was honored to interview Burt a few years ago for UF's oral history project.
Burt wrote several books, including "Florida: A Place in the Sun" (1974), "Becalmed in the Mullet Latitudes" (1984), "Al Burt's Florida" (1997), and "The Tropic of Cracker" (1999).
He also won many journalism awards, including the prestigious Ernie Pyle Award.