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. Dexter Skagway

    Unfortunately, qualified of not, accepting the seat from Blagocorruptovich was foolish. Even if he keeps the seat, he will have sour stench of scandal on him, especially since he donated handsomely to the governor.

    Burris should have declined the position when named: it might have actually gotten him the seat by doing so. However, to save face, the Senate Democrats really have to block him. He needed to say "no" to say "yes".

    December 30, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  2. Tl

    Gov. Blagovich should sing the theme from the movie "Moonracker".

    December 30, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  3. tired of corporate politics

    "No way" says: "I don't care if this guy is the second coming of Christ. "

    It is better than that! Following Obama's example he has played the race card hoping his pick will be sacred and above criticism.

    December 30, 2008 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  4. jonathan

    Governor Blagojevich is nothing more than a self serving and repugnant scumbag, dragging everything great and democratic into the muck and the mud with his filthy selfishness. He and his gold digging wife care nothing for the American people or the people of Illinois, never mind the Democratic party. You'd think he was a Republican.
    He and the gold-digger need to be dragged from the Governors mansion by the people of Illinois!

    December 30, 2008 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  5. mary

    mr. burris should say thanks but no thanks to gov. blago. any one can see that he is being used by gov.blago.he should want to stay as far away as possible from this man.

    December 30, 2008 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  6. Independent Hoosier Voter

    Glad to see from the comments here that "presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law" is alive and well in this democracy of ours!

    December 30, 2008 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  7. Joe Green

    Burris is an IDIOT for taking this seat, knowing what went on, and knowing that he is creating a problem for Obama right off the bat.

    Another Reverend Wright?

    December 30, 2008 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  8. jaye

    Well.... in my humble opinion Jesse jackson Jr. should have that senate seat.

    December 30, 2008 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  9. jaye

    Governor Blojo is deliberately trying to dirty everyone in his political mess. I see nothing wrong with Burris, but, I prefer Jesse Jr.
    Anyway, lock Governor Blojo in jail where he belongs and stop this political charade.... his 15 minutes are way over!

    December 30, 2008 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  10. Pat in IL

    Today's announcement was just another show of Blago's arrogance (or stupidity?) – just trying to look like a real governor instead of a criminal. Too bad it didn't work.

    December 30, 2008 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  11. Be Careful!!!!

    Blagojevich's is a sick man .......what ever Fitzgerald and the democratic cacus in Chicacgo are going to do..... need to move swiftly this guy is a walking time bomb ....he will take his own life and others

    December 30, 2008 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  12. Farrell, Houston, Tx


    December 30, 2008 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  13. yasmine

    this smells...

    December 30, 2008 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  14. clifford

    Keep fighting Gov. Rod Blagojevich and spill them beans on Obama!!

    December 30, 2008 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  15. Big Jim

    I do know Roland Burris! He is a very knowledgeable and honorable former public servant from Illinois. We would be well served with Burris in the U.S. Senate representing us. I can't stand Blago, but It's time to move on with Burris as our U.S. Senator!!!

    December 30, 2008 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  16. Meka

    Just how much did/does Burris owe Gov. "B" ?

    December 30, 2008 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  17. Larry

    Burris could be the second comming of Christ ...

    But it wouldn't matter

    Anything Blagojevich does since being caught Red Handed ... is Bogus

    What a waste of people's lives ...

    Rod ... if you really care about the people of Illinois, like you say you do ...

    Go HOME ...

    December 30, 2008 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  18. Proud Democrat

    Good choice. He will be a great interim Senator!

    December 30, 2008 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  19. Albo58

    To ensure integrity, Illinois really has no choice but to hold an election to fill Obama's seat. This governor can never be entrusted with anything again! As for his proposed stooge, this man has no honor or pride or else he would have told the governor thanks but no thanks. As for Bobby Rush, his idiotic and racist comments are as low as whale dung!

    December 30, 2008 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  20. Retired Army in San Antonio

    ran -- December 30th, 2008 7:27 pm ET

    .........The IL supreme court should pick the person to succeed Obama



    Their job is to interpret the law?

    How does appointing a Senator interpret the law?

    According to the Illinois State Constitution, the Governor is the sole authority to appoint a person to a vacant U.S. Senate seat.

    Sorry guys.....but Blago is still the Governor of Illinois and is 100% within his official gubinatorial rights to appoint Burris to the seat.

    BTW......he's also innocent.......until PROVEN guilty. As much as I don't like him.......nothing against him has been proven......yet!

    December 30, 2008 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  21. Texas Trail Kitty

    It's too bad that Gov. Rod wasn't about the business of government before. He should have had someone in that spot within a week of the election, once it was decided for President Obama. This man is a sorry excuse for a governor. Oh and you Republicans don't bother dissing him. Remember, the last govenor, A REPUBLICAN, is sitting in jail. It"s not the political party that is the problem – it's the raw power.

    December 30, 2008 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  22. art

    If Burris is such a great man, he should reject this appointment. How is it that he has no comment about governor today, while two weeks ago he supported the recall attempt?

    Can't people of Illinois recall this "thief" via a special election? Does anyone know if IL has such a law?

    December 30, 2008 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  23. mark l holland

    if the man is qualified who cares if the man who appoint's him is not qualified. I agree that the minorities should atleast have represenative persentives in the governent.

    December 30, 2008 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  24. Larry

    Sounds like he needs to retire.More of the same,part of theCHICAGO MACHINE.

    December 30, 2008 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  25. jaye

    I can hardly wait to see Governor Blojo's prison haircut. LOLOL

    December 30, 2008 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
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