Ducky Birts Pens His Life’s Story

by Joe Shaheeli

Donald “Ducky” Birts wears many hats, one as a member of Congressman Bob Brady’s constituency staff.

The others include those of a newsman, entrepreneur and successful businessman, civil-rights leader, sportsman and founder of a charity foundation.

What makes his story remarkable is how he managed all these lifetime achievements despite growing up poor and tough on the streets of Camden, N.J. In that city he achieved sports fame as a basketball player, winning all-state honors.

When he moved over to the Philadelphia side of the Delaware, he managed not to go wrong but instead do a lot of little things right. Through it all he has been a risk-taker, and that is the title of his autobiography, Ducky, “The Risk Taker”, penned with the assistance of Kendall Wilson.

It’s a must-read, especially for African American youngsters who feel, as did Ducky, his toughest competitor was often racism.

He recounts his life experiences, including an athletic career as a semi-professional basketball player, his role in the civil-rights movement from the 1950s to the 1960s, the many people he met along the way, those who guided him and those he helped in turn.
He dedicates his book to his mother, whose last wish was for Ducky to tell his remarkable story. She also gave him his nickname Ducky, saying “I called him Ducky because he waddled like a duck.” Her last public appearance was at his induction into the South Jersey Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995.

From a poor childhood, during which he helped the family bring in money by working on Jersey farms, and through a busy life holding down jobs while in school, he never lost his zest for life and his humor. It was at Hatch Junior HS in Camden that he got his first “real taste of politics.”

He campaigned and was elected president of his senior class. Add to that his inclusion in Camden HS’s Black Hall of Fame.

Married, with two sons and five grandchildren, Ducky recalls his life as a young father. He knew it was tough, but he also understood his responsibilities.

His entry into the world of business began as a salesman for Majestic Distributors. Then he went into business for himself with a haberdashery in Camden, which he closed after moving to Philadelphia. Here he developed a chain of clothing stores.

Ducky’s book is also a history of the civil-rights movement in this city, bringing to life many of the heroes and heroines of that period.

It’s a must-read and the School District would be doing its students a favor by adding his book to their list.