CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) - Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's pick to fill Barack Obama's empty U.S. Senate seat was the first African-American to be elected to statewide office in Illinois, winning the first of three terms as comptroller in 1978.
Burris will appear on CNN's Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull tonight at 8 p.m. ET
Twelve years later, Burris was elected attorney general in the state, the second African American in the country to reach that position.
Burris, 71, first let it be known he was interested in the spot shortly after the November 4 election that saw Obama win the presidency, the Chicago Tribune reported, saying he "was never seriously considered."
But he renewed his efforts to gain the position after Blagojevich's December 19 arrest on charges that he tried to sell the senate seat, the paper said.
Burris has been a supporter of Blagojevich since 2002. He and his wife have given the governor's campaign committee $4,500 over the years, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections, and his consulting firm, Burris & Lebed, has given the committee $9,000 in cash and another almost $1,800 in in-kind donations for postage, printing, cleaning and meals.
Burris unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2002, finishing finish third in the Democratic primary won by Blagovich.
He also ran an unsuccessful campaign for mayor of Chicago in 1995, losing to incumbent Richard Daley.
Burris was a graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale and studied law as an exchange student at the University of Hamburg in Germany. He later earned a Juris Doctor degree from Howard University in 1963.
Out of law school, Burris worked for the U.S. Treasury Department as a bank examiner and then vice president of Continental Illinois National Bank. Then-Illinois Gov. Daniel Walker named him to head the Illinois Department of General Services in 1973, where he remained until his election as comptroller.
Burris serves on numerous boards and councils in Illinois, and was named one of Ebony Magazine's 100 Most Influential Black Americans every year from 1979 to 1995.
He is married to Dr. Berlean Burris, and the couple have two adult children and a grandson.