Roland Burris (b. 1937) is the junior U.S. Senator from Illinois. In 1978 he became the first African American elected to statewide office in Illinois, and in 1990 was elected state attorney general. Since then he lost a series of primary elections and was considered a minor player in Illinois.
He was named by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat of President-elect Obama, causeing enormous uproar because Blagojevich was being impeached for trying to sell that same seat. Blagojevich was convicted and removed from office in January 2009.
Senate Democrats promised not to seat anyone named by Blagojevich, because of the taint associated with him. Therefore on Jan. 6, 2009, Burris was denied entry to the Senate chambers Tuesday as he tried to claim the seat.
Legally, however, his claim to the seat seemed good, because it depended on Blagojevich being governor, which he was.
On Jan. 12, 2009, he was finally certified by the Senate.
Burris was seated after promising to testify truthfully to the impeachment committee of the Illinois legislature, which investigated Blagojevich.
However Burris later admitted that he did not testify truthfully to the committee while under oath, and calls have been made for an independent investigation, which may possibly bring criminal charges of perjury. Senate officials are investigating the situation and it may lead to his expulsion from the Senate.
- John Chase and Rick Pearson, "Burris changes story on Senate seat," Chicago Tribune Feb. 14, 2009; Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney, "Illinois lawmakers mull Burris perjury probe," Chicago Sun-Times Feb. 14, 2009