In a move as brazen as it was unexpected, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich accused of trying to swap President Elect Barack Obama's vacant senate seat for a high-paying Administration job or other favors named former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris as Obama's replacement. As a former State Comptroller, he's the first African American to win an Illinois executive office; he has also lost five races for higher office.
71 years old, Burris is married to Berlean Miller, and they have two children, Rolanda and Roland II.
Grew up in Centralia where, as a 16-year old, he tried to integrate the local swimming pool.
Received his law degree from Howard University. Early in his career, worked as a federal bank examiner, was a bank vice-president, and led Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH coalition before going into politics.
In 1978, won the first of his three terms as state comptroller; became attorney general in 1991.
Lost a 1984 Senate race, a 1995 Chicago mayoral race (he was creamed by Richard Daley) and was defeated in the 1994, 1998, and 2002 gubernatorial elections (the last time by Blagojevich).
According to several Chicago Tribune stories from the 90s, Burris can regard slights against him as signs of racism. In 1998, he called his challengers "non-qualified white boys."
Burris possesses a healthy ego. He has a mausoleum for himself already constructed on the South Side of Chicago into which the words "TRAIL BLAZER" are carved, along with a long list of his accomplishments.
While attorney general, Burris oversaw the controversial murder conviction (later overturned by the Illinois Supreme Court) of Rolando Cruz, accused of killing a 10-year old girl. A lawyer in the office resigned when Burris declined to acknowledge any mistakes in the case's prosecution.
"Please don't allow the allegations against me to taint this good and honest man."
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, during a Dec. 30 press conference announcing Burris as his pick to fill Obama's seat
"Roland is a sturdy, non-flash bridge-builder."
Rev. Jesse Jackson, Chicago Tribune, Nov. 8, 1993
"Roland's banker profile doesn't lend itself to the same kind of Baptist preacher personality that the African American community is used to...On the stump, Roland won't get the same response."
Bobby Rush, Illinois congressman, Chicago Tribune, Feb. 17, 2002
"He left government under a good standing, and this is not a way to re-enter it."
Jim Durkin, Republican spokesman on the Illinois House impeachment panel, www.chicagobreakingnews.com, Dec. 30, 2008
"[I'm] a small piece of leather but [I'm] well put together."
on how he's managed, through a healthy diet among other things, to remain so well-preserved, Chicago Tribune, March 3, 1998
"Faced with these challenges and challenged with these crises, it is incomprehensible that the people of the great state of Illinois will enter the 111th Congress shorthanded."
on the possibility that U.S. Senate Democrats would not seat him, press conference, Dec. 30, 2008
"I'm not some fluke or perennial candidate."
on his belief that he would become Illinois' first black governor. He subsequently ran for office three more times. Chicago Tribune, Nov. 8, 1993
"Why not me?"
to Rick Garcia, director of public policy for Equality Illinois, on who should replace Obama in the Senate, Chicago Sun-Times, Nov. 10, 2008