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

Blagojevich pick has long political history

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. aware

    Good move Gov. Blago! 🙂 I hope you get to sing like a canary!

    December 30, 2008 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  2. Godluvr

    Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, or in this case, the firewater. He may be a good man, and worthy of consideration.

    December 30, 2008 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  3. Daniel Cabrera

    I was expecting this.It is interesting how the dynamics go. From one part the governor – deep in CORRUPTION- still in power (nobody wants him there)- yet the 'staus-quo' remains.
    On the other hand there are someones that are trying heavily to substantiate and excuse HIS WRONG AND QUESTIONABLE PRACTICES so CORRUPTIONS SEEMS OK, no matters what.
    Where are we going to go with this?,....simple:- we a are going to go to the destruction of our nation: values , and perspectives are going already down the hill.
    But then again this might be only a phase( I CERTAINLY DO HOPE SO) and soon after the 'Obama-wave' and the CHICAGO CORRUPTED POLITICAL ATMOSPHERE from where Obama is a product, will eventually dissipate, then a set of decent and caring leaders should come to hold the helm of our beloved country.
    In the mean time we need to be ALERT TO ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING , or otherwise there will be nothing, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING LEFT FOR OUR CHILDREN.

    Let's think about this very seriously,...please , let's do so, OK?

    Daniel Cabrera
    Merrillville, Indiana

    December 30, 2008 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  4. Brian

    Burris actually isn't a bad choice. Its just unfortunate that the man that chose him is political slime.

    December 30, 2008 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  5. New Yorker

    Barbara C is correct and anyone who would accept an appointment by Blago disqualifies themself.

    December 30, 2008 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  6. paul kaye

    what that fool Blagojevich did, by appointing that graeat african american civil servant , was done out of sheer SPITE against the younger fine african american named jackson merely because jackson- well within his right and obligation -defended himself against allegations that he had acted and worked to court favour with Blago.

    December 30, 2008 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  7. bea

    this was some move the guy comment.

    December 30, 2008 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  8. Matt

    Roland Burris is not the typical politician. He is intelligent, hard-working and honest.

    I know it upsets Obama that one of the candidates on the "short-list" he submitted to Blagojevich was not selected, but Obama is not part of the selection process for the senate seat he vacated. Neither is Harry Reid, but that has not stopped either of them from complaining.

    I hope the whining from Reid and Obama is not an example of the change that we are going to get over the next 4 years.

    December 30, 2008 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
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