Burgess Designation For Champaign Post Office Heads To President
By Jeff Bossert
A postal facility in the University of Illinois’ Campustown neighborhood is one stroke of the pen away from becoming “The James R. Burgess Post Office Building.”
The U.S. House Tuesday unanimously approved placing the name of Champaign County’s first African-American countywide elected official on the postal facility at 302 East Green Street in Champaign.
The measure now heads to President Obama for his consideration. An identical bill was passed in the Senate on August 1, 2013.
Burgess served as Champaign County State’s Attorney from 1972 to 1976, and was later a U.S. Attorney for a large portion of downstate Illinois under presidents Carter and Reagan. He died in 1997.
“Since Mr. Burgess’ passing in 1997, constituents in my district and especially his son, Steve, have been looking for a way to commemorate the achievements of his life,” said Republican Congressman Rodney Davis of Taylorville, the chief sponsor of the bill, in a press release.
Steve Burgess initially sought to place his father’s name on the federal courthouse in Urbana. That focus later shifted to the post office when that effort fell short.
“I tried to prepare myself from the very beginning that this was not something that was going to happen overnight,” said Burgess, on an interview with David Inge on WILL-TV’s Illinois Pioneers last fall. “This whole thing has been a history and a civics lesson for me.”
Steve Burgess passed away suddenly last November, unable to see his dream to its fruition.
“Steve worked tirelessly over the years to get this project to the finish line, and it’s heartbreaking that he won’t be able to see it through to completion.," said Davis.
James Burgess also spent more than 20 years in the Army, and played a large role in the 761st Tank Battalion, the first African-American armored unit to see battle in World War II.