December 30th, 2008
06:39 PM ET
6 years ago

Blagojevich pick has long political history

Burris was elected Illinois comptroller 30 years ago.
Burris was elected Illinois comptroller 30 years ago.

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.


Filed under: Roland Burris
soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. Patrick

    I feel bad for him. I don't know anything about him or if I would support him based on his mertis but he won't get a fair shake. Just another selfish move by Blago. Now his appointee will never get a chance to serve in the senate like he may well deserve. Blago needs to be rotting in a cell by now.

    December 30, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  2. THE OLD TIMER

    the gov is doing the right thing when he appointed Burris.. the gov followed the constitution of the usa... this is more than i can say for the idiot in the whitehouse......Obama better read the constitution again and figure out what it means.... like being a natural us born citizen

    December 30, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  3. Barbara C

    It is unfortunate that Burris wanted this job so badly, that he let a crook appoint him. Along with Blago, Burris has made a mockery of our State in front of the world. Please, please, Senate Dems, do not seat him!!!

    December 30, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  4. curtis in WI

    You've got to wonder why anyone at all would accept this appointment. No matter how clean they are, they are now tainted in everyone's minds.

    December 30, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  5. what is he smiling for

    he just got picked by a felon

    December 30, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  6. Phoenix

    Blago is a real goon. You know its sad. Rules are actually not made for the average population, they are made for the idiots who do not believe that they are accountable to anyone. If Burris is so darn distinguished shouldn't he have known not to get his tat in this sort of ringer.

    December 30, 2008 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  7. Proud American

    Poor Idiot dosen't know when he's being used. Hey on the flip side he might fit right in Washington.

    December 30, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  8. Lyndon from CA

    Is he related to Plaxico Burris, the New York Giants wide receiver who sot himself in the thigh? Since he may have just shot down his chances for representational government by agreeing to be Governor Blockhead's stooge.

    December 30, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  9. Joyce

    Mr. Burris has enjoyed a good reputation in Illinois. I fear Bobby Rush hurt Mr. Burris' reputation by insinuating that the reason he needs to be senator is because of his race.. Brown's thinking is discriminatory....he insinuates non-whites do not have the capabilities (which they do) to accept this posititon. Mr. Burris has enough problems on his hands due to his appointment by Blagojevich, so Bobby, leave him alone!

    December 30, 2008 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  10. Ms. G

    By the fact Burris accepted this nomination tells me that he is also a corrupt politician. A person with a sense of integrity will not touch this nomination with a 10 foot pole. Mr Burris shows poor judgment and that is not a would be senator that I would want defending my state.

    December 30, 2008 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  11. Taniel

    Via Campaign Diaries:

    "What happens if Burris drags the Senate to court for refusing to seat him (a suit he should win based on precedent) but the Illinois state legislature impeaches Blagojevich and elevates Pat Quinn as Governor before the court renders its decision? Could Pat Quinn cancel Blagojevich's decision and appoint a new Senator since Burris would not yet be seated?

    Would that depend on whether Jesse White has certified the appointment? Even if White has no legal right not to sign the document, he could potentially delay legal proceedings long enough for the legislature to impeach Blagojevich."

    December 30, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  12. Can't put something on nothing!

    Rubbish!

    December 30, 2008 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  13. ran

    How come this guy accepted? It makes me wounder. I believe no one picked by this Gov. should accept. The IL supreme court should pick the person to succeed Obama.

    December 30, 2008 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  14. Dan, TX

    This seems like a good pick. It is Blagojevich's way of screwing everyone. It will be interesting to see why Burris agreed to this, however. I guess he had nothing better to do.

    December 30, 2008 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  15. Tyrone Brown

    My name is Tyrone Brown and I am a Proud Obamacrat from Seattle Washington. I stand 100% behind the decision of the Senate Democratic Caucus and the expressed wish of President-Elect Barack Obama to not seat anyone nominated by Blagojevich.

    I am writing my state's Senators (and I suggest my fellow Democrats to the same) to ask them to support the Senate Democratic Caucus and the President-Elect, and not allow the Govenor to make a mockery of the Senate seat and continue snub the Democratic leadership.

    Also, I think it is important to weigh in on the decision by Illinois Representative Rush to use the "race card" during the Burgess press conference. Race does not and should not have any bearing in the decision to seat the vacant Senate seat. If the election of Barack Obama (the next generation of leadership) tells us anything, it is that the old rhetorical use of "race" is a very weak card to play. It's so 20th century!

    December 30, 2008 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  16. Juan Grain

    Watch the Senate throw this right back to Blago. They will never accept one of his appointments, regardless of color, creed or comitment. And the guy that accepted is not to bright and does not care to much for Obama. Maybe he is one of those that feels that Obama isn't "black enough" you know a Jesse Jackson type. The old pharts, that don't get it.

    December 30, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  17. S. Ammons

    Although the person chosen may be well qualified, I hope Illinois doesn't approve it. Under the circumstances, I don't think Burris should have accepted the job. He had to know this was a spiteful move on the part of a crooked Governor to use his power.
    So Illinois..vote no to anyone this Govenor selects! And get this Govenor out!!

    December 30, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  18. sunoverla

    Bravo Blago!

    Those "saintly" Dems don't want a special election so the IL people can decide who their next senator will be because they want to annoint their own African-American BxO successor, so bravo Blago for shoving their hypocrisy back in their pious faces!!

    LOOL!

    December 30, 2008 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  19. No way.

    I don't care if this guy is the second coming of Christ. He should not fill that seat. I'm shocked that he is so willing to do so. The fact that Burris is so willing to accept the position even when Obama and the Senate said no to any Blagojavich pick makes me think he's just as dirty as the Governor. No way.

    December 30, 2008 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  20. The Lady

    I wonder would you be the pick if the Gov was not under investigation? are you a token?

    December 30, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  21. Burris is a fool.

    Why in the world is Burris kissing up to the Governor? He looks guilty by taking his side. He should've told the Governor – "thanks, but no thanks." Burris is clearly just out for himself.

    December 30, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  22. Kevin

    I think you all need to read up on the Constituional powers of the Senate. Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats have no constituiional power whatsoever to block the Burriss appointment.

    December 30, 2008 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  23. Proud American

    Let's start a pool and see who can pick how much he paid.

    December 30, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  24. Sherrol in Canada

    Burris could be another Obama, I don't care. The issue is that he accepted an appointment that should not have been. I believe I see a man who is blinded by ambition and one who does not exercise very good judgement.

    No way will be serve the people of Illinois or all of America well!!

    December 30, 2008 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  25. (Former) Lifelong Republican for Obama, Columbia, TN

    The fact that Burris would accept this tainted appointment suggest to me that he is just as unethical as the governor who has appointed him.

    December 30, 2008 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
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