Roland Wallace Burris (born August 3, 1937) is a former United States Senator from the state of Illinois and a member of the Democratic Party.
In 1978, Burris was the first African-American elected to statewide office in Illinois, when he was elected Illinois Comptroller. He served in that office until his election as Illinois Attorney General in 1990. Since then, he has unsuccessfully run for office four more times.
Burris was appointed by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to replace President-Elect Barack Obama as the junior senator from Illinois. The appointment was controversial, as the governor was already under investigation and there were rumors of his being paid for the appointment. Prior to Burris’s appointment, Obama was the U.S. Senate’s only African American member; he resigned his Senate seat after being elected President of the United States.
Burris was born and raised in the small community of Centralia in southern Illinois. The Burris family can trace their roots to American slaves in the American South, mainly in the states of Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee. He was a 1955 graduate of Centralia High School. He attended Southern Illinois University Carbondale, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science in 1959. He was an exchange student on scholarship to study International Law at the University of Hamburg in Germany. He earned his Juris Doctor degree from the Howard University School of Law in 1963.
Burris is married to Berlean M. Burris and is the father of two adult children, Rolanda S. Burris, and Roland W. Burris II. He also has a grandson, Roland T. Burris.
Burris has built a mausoleum for himself in Oak Woods Cemetery on Chicago’s South Side. His tombstone proclaims, “TRAIL BLAZER”, and includes a list of his accomplishments, with space left for future ones.
Senator Burris is a Life Member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
Photo: Burris Law LLC0