Roland Burris, the first African American to serve in a statewide office in Illinois when he was elected Illinois Comptroller in 1978, has been inducted into the 2020 Hall of Fame of the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers. NASACT is the premier organization bringing together state auditors, state comptrollers, and state treasurers to address government financial issues.
Burris, a former State Comptroller, Attorney General and Illinois U. S. Senator (D-IL) was honored during the organization’s virtual conference in August.
Burris was instrumental in the formation of the National Association of State Comptrollers, serving as its president in 1980. He felt strongly that NASACT should be a stable, stand-alone entity, and worked to establish NASACT’s independence and its D.C. office during his time as NASACT’s president in 1986. He was also a leading figure in the push to create a national Office of the Comptroller at the federal level.
Born in 1937 in Centralia, Illinois, Burris earned a political science degree from Southern Illinois University, and later his law degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C.
In 1963, at the height of the Civil Rights movement in Chicago and around the country, Burris made history when he was hired as the first-ever African-American bank examiner. He became the first Black officer of Chicago’s largest bank, Continental Illinois National, where he worked for several years before making his move to state government as director of the Illinois State Department of General Services
In 1978, Burris made history again, becoming the first African-American elected to statewide office in Illinois with his successful bid to be state comptroller. He was re-elected twice and served as comptroller until January 1991. He was elected in 1990 as the state’s attorney general, a post he held for one term. Burris served as a trustee of the Financial Accounting Foundation from 1991 through 1994.
After working as a lawyer and political consultant for several years, Burris was selected to fill the unexpired term of former Senator and President-Elect Barack Obama on December 31, 2008. He served for two years in the United States Senate.
A favorite son of Illinois, Burris has served with honor and dignity throughout his career, breaking down barriers and blazing a trail for others to follow in service at both the state and federal levels.