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The Honorable Clark Burrus

Clark Burrus was born in Chicago on November 5, 1928. He grew up on Chicago's south side and graduated from Englewood High School in 1946. He began studies at Texas State University before returning to Chicago to complete both a B.S.C.(1954) and a M.P.A.(1972) at Roosevelt University.

From 1954-1979, Burrus worked for the City of Chicago, and served under Mayors Martin Kennelley, Richard J. Daley, Michael Bilandic, and Jane Byrne. In 1973 he was named City Comptroller, the city's Chief Financial Officer. Under his capable supervision over Chicago's Department of Finance, the City achieved its first Double-A-Bond rating for conformance in accounting.

In 1979 Burrus entered the private sector, serving as the Senior Vice President of the First National Bank of Chicago in the Asset and Liability Management Department, a position he would hold for the next twelve years. In 1991 he was made the Vice Chairman of First Chicago Capital Markets, Inc. and co-head of the Public Banking Department.

Though he retired in 1998, Burrus remained active in Chicago's business community for many years, serving in an advisory capacity on numerous boards and committees. He acted as the Chairman for the Chicago Council on Urban Affairs - Advisory Board, and Co-Chairman for the Health Care Sub-Committee of the Cook County Citizens Budget Review Committee. In addition, he sat on the boards of directors of twelve organizations, including the Economic Development Council, The Harold Washington Foundation, and Urban Gateways. He was a member of the Union League Club of Chicago, The Economic Club of Chicago, The Executives' Club of Chicago, and the Mid-Day Club. He also published articles on minority issues in public finance. Burrus and his wife Lucille had one son, James.

Burrus passed away on June 17, 2015 at age 86.

Accession Number

A2002.193

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

10/1/2002

Last Name

Burrus

Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

Englewood High School

Archival Photo 2
First Name

Clark

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

BUR07

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Southeast Florida

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

11/5/1928

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Seafood

Death Date

6/17/2015

Short Description

Bank executive and city comptroller The Honorable Clark Burrus (1928 - 2015 ) was a financial expert and was the first African American comptroller for the City of Chicago.

Employment

City of Chicago

First National Bank

First Chicago Capital Markets

Favorite Color

Brown

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Clark Burrus interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Clark Burrus's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Clark Burrus discusses his family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Clark Burrus recalls his father Lemmie and Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Clark Burrus talks about his parents' move to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Clark Burrus discusses his father's work

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Clark Burrus recalls Chicago in the 1930s and 1940s

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Clark Burrus remembers his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Clark Burrus talks about his participation in athletics

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Clark Burrus recalls his elementary school years

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Clark Burrus recalls his father's disciplinary technique

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Clark Burrus tells a story about receiving a punishment

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Clark Burrus tells about how he avoided trouble as a youth

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Clark Burrus discusses his participation in athletics

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Clark Burrus talks about his choice of college

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Clark Burrus recalls a racial incident in Houston, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Clark Burrus talks about revisiting Texas Southern University

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Clark Burrus discusses working his way through college

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Clark Burrus discusses his search for a job

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Clark Burrus describes his promotions

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Clark Burrus describes his roles as Chief Financial Officer and Comptroller

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Clark Burrus talks about former Chicago mayors

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Clark Burrus discusses his work with Harold Washington

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Clark Burrus talks about the Eugene Sawyer administration

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Clark Burrus recalls mentoring Cook County Clerk Dorothy Brown

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Clark Burrus discusses Chicago city politics

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Clark Burrus recalls the Jane Byrne administration

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Clark Burrus discusses several former Chicago mayors

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Clark Burrus talks about working in Chicago city government

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Clark Burrus discusses his role in city government

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Clark Burrus reflects on his power in city government

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Clark Burrus recalls mentoring a young African American

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Clark Burrus discusses his move into banking

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Clark Burrus talks about his start at First National Bank of Chicago

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Clark Burrus describes the dynamic at First National Bank of Chicago

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Clark Burrus talks about working at First National Bank

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Clark Burrus describes his views on banking

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Clark Burrus recalls a big move at First National Bank

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Clark Burrus discusses public life

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Clark Burrus talks about East Coast banks

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Clark Burrus describes his banking career

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Clark Burrus describes different types of banking

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Clark Burrus talks about changes in the banking industry

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Clark Burrus talks about African American banks

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Clark Burrus discusses the state of black banks

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Clark Burrus talks about black banks in Chicago

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Clark Burrus discusses his work with the Chicago School Board

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Clark Burrus talks about bailing out the Chicago School Board

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Clark Burrus discusses his term on the Chicago School Board

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Clark Burrus describes his move from the RTA to the CTA board

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Clark Burrus recalls a scandal at the Chicago Housing Authority

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Clark Burrus discusses an incident at the CTA

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Clark Burrus discusses his financial work in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Clark Burrus discusses his hopes and concerns for the black community

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Clark Burrus talks about black employment

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Clark Burrus discusses the lack of black-owned businesses

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Clark Burrus discusses black culture and business

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Clark Burrus talks about black income versus capital

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Clark Burrus discusses his legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Clark Burrus talks about his parents and his success

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Photo - Clark Burrus in his office at First National Bank of Chicago

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Photo - Clark Burrus is crowned king of the DuSable Museum Carnival

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Photo - Clark Burrus and entertainer, Danny Thomas

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Photo - Clark Burrus giving a speech

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Photo - Clark Burrus, Illinois State's Attorney Dick Devine, and John Schmidt

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Photo - Clark Burrus with other Chicago politicians on a golf outing

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Photo - Clark Burrus with other Chicago-area businessmen on a golf outing

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Photo - Clark Burrus with Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and an unidentified man

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - Photo - Clark Burrus with Mayor Harold Washington and John Stroger

Tape: 9 Story: 10 - Photo - Clark Burrus, Mayor Michael Bilandic and colleagues from the City of Chicago

Tape: 9 Story: 11 - Photo - Clark Burrus and colleagues from the City of Chicago

Tape: 9 Story: 12 - Photo - Clark Burrus in his college graduation portrait

Tape: 9 Story: 13 - Photo - Clark Burrus and wife Lucille at Michael Bilandic's wedding

Tape: 9 Story: 14 - Photo - Clark Burrus on the cover of 'Dollars and Sense' magazine

Tape: 9 Story: 15 - Photo - Clark Burrus and Cook County, Illinois State's Attorney Cecil Partee

Tape: 9 Story: 16 - Photo - Clark Burrus with his wife celebrating the 25th anniversary with the City of Chicago

Tape: 9 Story: 17 - Photo - A newspaper clipping featuring Clark Burrus, Dr. Ruth Love and Richard Thomas

Tape: 9 Story: 18 - Photo - Clark Burrus in a clipping announcing his appointment to a national finance post, ca. 1973

Tape: 9 Story: 19 - Photo - Drawing of Clark Burrus in an advertisement for First National Bank of Chicago

Tape: 9 Story: 20 - Photo - Clark Burrus, his wife and his assistant at the Carnival Ball held at the DuSable Museum, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1988

Tape: 9 Story: 21 - Photo - Jewel Lafontant MANkarious and son John Rogers at a Carnival Ball at the DuSable Museum, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1988

Tape: 9 Story: 22 - Photo - Jewel Lafontant MANkarious and Clark Burrus at a Carnival Ball at the DuSable Museum, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1988.

Tape: 9 Story: 23 - Photo - Drawings of Clark Burrus and others in an advertisement for First National Bank of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, 1981

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

5$7

DATitle
Clark Burrus discusses his work with Harold Washington
Clark Burrus recalls mentoring a young African American
Transcript
But what I did was surround myself with the best and the brightest [for Harold Washington's mayoral transition team]. Nothing ecumenical about this committee I had. I had the best folks that, that, that were in the business. Didn't care whether they were white or black, I didn't care whether republican or democrat. I didn't care whether they were Chicagoans, suburbanites. And we did it. And, and we got it from academia, from the law firms, from the investment bankers, from the commercial bankers. Basically, the general consulting fields, folks who really understood the dynamics of local government, and we put the, put 'em together. And they had this great big, you know, Harold Washington [former Chicago, Illinois mayor], he had a couple hundred people doing something. I took one look at that, and I says--I took my group aside, says, you know, I'm not reporting up to any steering committee, which is a committee I was on. And I was vice, vice-chairman, I mean co-chairman of it. And I met Ed Berry [Edwin C. Berry] from the [Chicago] Urban League. I said, well, I'm not, I'm not gonna be--you know, my effort is gonna be subjected to all this scrutiny and I don't want to be encumbered by any of the, the issues that Ed Berry and his group were looking at. And we published this report. And they came in, and they came from all around the country looking at the, this report. And we sent them out of town with their tails between their legs. I was very proud of that. Harold Washington says, you know, Clark, please, come work for me. I'll give you whatever job you want, because I need somebody to help me form this government and administer this--the dynamics of this, this organization. And I told him in all sincerity, which I hadn't planned on saying, because I didn't think he was gonna be serious about offering me the job. But at this time, I'm at the bank. I'm making three times what, you know, I was making when I was CFO [Chief Financial Officer] or more, and not including bonuses. And I told him, I says, you know, Mayor, I'm so proud of you. And I knew him, you know, back when he was a state legislator and a congressman. I says, I'm so proud of what you've done, but you need to understand, you simply can't afford me, you know. I'm too much money. But what you can't afford to pay for, I'll give to you, free. And I was in his office and I--. The initial ninety days, I practically ran the government. But don't forget, I've got twenty five years of experience to draw on. And so I did, you know, and I loved every moment of it, you know. And, matter of fact, I had a meeting with him, scheduled with him, seven minutes before he--after he died. And he died and I was on my way over there, and I got the word that he had died. And--Chicago will never forgive you for doing this, Harold, you know. And I was so, I was very proud of him, you know.$Tell me this. Do you think that because of the intense kind of racial discrimination in the private sector that a lot of very, very talented black professionals end up working in the public sector? And when you--?$$That's not a thought. It's not that I think it. It's a fact. I know it, you know. Not just for me, because of my experience of going, you know, carrying a gun down in Albuquerque [New Mexico]. But you didn't, you didn't have opportunities to, to work in the private sector at, at significantly high levels of position. Let me, let me explain that to you. At the bank, you know, I was a manager, and I was a senior-level manager. And I mentored a lot of my minorities. And we have something called the First Scholar Program where we bring the real bright kids, youngsters in from the better schools. And we call them First Scholars. 'First' for the First National Bank and 'Scholars' because of their achievement at a young, young age. And we had, I remember we had two, an Irish kid from Chicago [Illinois] suburbs who went to University of Chicago [Chicago, Illinois] graduate school, doing extremely well. We had a young African American, same age, who went to Harvard [University, Cambridge, Massachusetts], was at Harvard doing graduate, doing graduate--no, undergraduate work and going into Harvard for his combination law and MBA [Masters of Business Administration]. And after, you know, four, five--four, five, six months, I had to bring--I was very disappointed in the young African American. I brought him in and told him that, you know, we brought the two of you in. You're both really on a fast track, and here is Vince, who was the young white, white youngster who was just, you know, taking chances and making recommendations and going all over the place, you know. And here's this little African American who said that, who was doing well, but moving at a snails pace compared to the horse race rate that Vince Kelly was--excuse, take the names out--the young white, white youngster was doing. And I explained to him, how disappointed I was, and told him, "you have to--if you want to go into, to move up, you've got to assume risks, you know, and take a chance, you know, and, and move on, you know, because you've got to catch up with these other fastrackers," you know, according to the young man to the young man that is peer of the young white fellow. And he listened very intelligently, and articulate. When I finished, I says, "now you go out there, you know, and full speed ahead." And he says, "Mr. Burrus, may I say something." And I said, "of course." "You need to understand, sir,"his words to me, "that when Vince takes a chance and he's wrong, it's chalked up as a learning experience." And I says, "that's absolutely, you're correct. That's right." He said, "when I take it, it's career threatening. I can't, I don't--. I have a chance to succeed just as much as Vince does. I don't have a chance to fail and survive." I fumbled around a few words and dismissed him because--and I thought about it. I mean he's absolutely right. You know, even in, you know, over the past century, the century before the past century, blacks had opportunities to succeed because you can look at the George Washington Carvers and, you know, Booker T. Washingtons and so forth. You can look at World War II, you had Jews who survived and prospered. Jewish scientist who was trying to a-bomb. What we don't have and what we need in terms of achieving parity and equality is opportunity, not to succeed, but opportunities to fail and survive. That we don't have. And you're absolutely correct. And, and it's more so in the private sector, even as we speak, than in the public sector, although it exists in the public sector also now.