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The Honorable Roland Burris

Born in Centralia, Illinois, on August 30, 1937, Roland Burris received his bachelor's degree in political science from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 1959. He then studied at the University of Hamburg, Germany, for a year before entering law school at Howard University.

Burris began his career in 1963 as a national bank examiner for the U.S. Treasury Department. This gave him the honor of being the first African American to examine banks in the United States. From 1964 to 1973, he served as vice president of Continental Illinois National Bank, making significant contacts in both the corporate and African American communities. Burris began his government career in 1973 as director of the Illinois Department of General Services. In 1978, with his election to the first of three terms as state comptroller, he made history as the first African American elected to state office. On November 6, 1990, Roland W. Burris was elected attorney general for the state of Illinois. At that time, the only African American ranking higher in state office was Douglas Wilder, the governor of Virginia. He served as Illinois attorney general from 1991 to 1995. In 1998, Burris unsuccessfully ran for the office of Governor of the State of Illinois.

After his public service career, Burris worked as an attorney with the Peters law firm in Chicago, where he specialized in environmental, consumer affairs and estate law. Previously, he was managing partner of the Chicago-based law firm of Jones, Ware & Grenard, one of the largest minority law firms in the country.

Burris returned to public service on December 30, 2008 when Governor Rod Blagojevich appointed him as a U.S. Senator, filling the seat formerly held by Barack Obama. On January 15, 2009, Burris was sworn in as a U.S. Senator, representing the State of Illinois.

Accession Number

A2000.011

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

4/24/2000

Last Name

Burris

Maker Category
Schools

Lincoln School

Centralia High School

Southern Illinois University

University of Hamburg

Howard University School of Law

Archival Photo 2
First Name

Roland

Birth City, State, Country

Centralia

HM ID

BUR03

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Africa

Favorite Quote

Only the best is good enough.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

8/30/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fruit, Vegetables

Short Description

State attorney general, state comptroller, and U.S. senator The Honorable Roland Burris (1937 - ) was the first African American in Illinois elected to state office, where he served as state comptroller and as attorney general before being appointed to the United States Senate in 2008.

Employment

United States Comptroller of Currency, Chicago

Continental Illinois National Bank, Chicago

Illinois Dept. of General Services

State of Illinois

Jones, Ware & Grenard

Buford & Peters LLC

Burris & Lebed Consulting LLC

Burris, Wright, Slaughter & Tom, LLC

Favorite Color

Blue

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Roland Burris interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Roland Burris's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Roland Burris describes his childhood in Centralia, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Roland Burris describes how integrating the public pool inspired his career in law and public service

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Roland Burris describes his academic success

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Roland Burris recalls his political ambitions after graduating from Howard University Law School

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Roland Burris relates his family's history

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Roland Burris describes his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Roland Burris discusses deaths in his family

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Roland Burris learns important lessons from his family

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Roland Burris describes housing at Southern Illinois University

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Roland Burris describes the strong black community in Centralia, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Roland Burris describes his personality as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Roland Burris explains his decision to attend Southern Illinois University

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Roland Burris talks about remaining active with his alma maters

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Roland Burris describes his efforts to integrate Carbondale, Illinois in the 1950s

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Roland Burris discusses his time as an exchange student in Hamburg, Germany

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Roland Burris describes his journey to Howard University's law school in Washington, D.C.: Part I

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Roland Burris describes his journey to Howard University's law school: Part II

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Roland Burris remembers his time as a law student at Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Roland Burris discusses the advantages of attending law school at Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Roland Burris describes his job search following law school

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Roland Burris discusses his search for a job in the banking industry

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Roland Burris describes being undervalued at Continental Illinois National Bank

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Roland Burris overcomes racism and succeeds at Continental Illinois National Bank

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Roland Burris describes making political connections in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Roland Burris describes his first run for political office

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Roland Burris recalls racism from whites and skepticism from other black employees as he rose at Continental Bank, Chicago

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Roland Burris details how he made a name for himself in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Roland Burris becomes the first black man in Illinois history to be elected to a statewide office

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Roland Burris continues with his story of becoming the first elected black statewide officeholder

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Roland Burris describes his various political offices in the 1970s and 1980s

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Roland Burris contemplates reasons for his political success and comments on his 1990 election as Illinois Attorney General

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Roland Burris discusses his skills at dealing with people as comptroller for the state of Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Roland Burris talks about taking over the office of Illinois Comptroller

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Roland Burris analyzes his significance as the first black Illinois Comptroller

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Roland Burris discusses his work as Attorney General of Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Roland Burris recalls his runs for governor of Illinois and mayor of Chicago

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Roland Burris talks about his community and legal work in 2000

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Roland Burris talks about African American political power

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Roland Burris discusses Illinois's black politicians

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Roland Burris remembers figures who influenced his success

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Roland Burris discusses his wife and her educational and career pursuits

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Roland Burris considers his sense of direction in life

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Roland Burris describes his children's accomplishments

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Roland Burris considers his legacy