Full Senate Approves Burgess Post Office Designation
By Jeff Bossert
The U.S. Senate has approved a resolution to name a Campustown post office for Champaign County's first African-American elected official.
A day after the measure passed in committee, the full chamber Thursday night approved naming the post office at 302 East Green Street in Champaign for James R. Burgess. The designation now moves to the House.
"James Burgess distinguished himself as a leader in the first African-American armored Battalion to enter World War II, and he later served the people of Illinois as Champaign County State’s Attorney and as a U.S. Attorney,” said U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), in a statement. “I hope we can soon bring greater recognition to Mr. Burgess' achievements in service of our country and our state."
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Republican Congressman Rodney Davis of Taylorville also praised Thursday's vote.
The post office would be named the "James R. Burgess Jr. Post Office Building." He was born on December 19, 1915 in Algood, Tennessee, serving more than twenty years in the Army, playing a critical role in largely unknown part of American military history as a leader of the 761st Tank Battalion, the first African-American unit to enter battle in World War II.
At 29, Burgess was a First Lt. in command of one of the six companies who served under General George Patton in Europe. Upon retirement from the U.S. Army, he had reached the rank of Major.
Soon after leaving the service in 1962, Burgess moved his family to Champaign, so he could attend law school at the University of Illinois. He graduated three years later as the only African-American in his class.
He was elected Champaign County State's Attorney in 1972, and is still the only African-American to be elected countywide in Champaign County.
A prior effort to name the federal courthouse in Urbana for Burgess failed.