Legislation Would Name Post Office for Burgess
By Jeff Bossert
Illinois’ two U.S. Senators have introduced a measure to name a Campustown post office for the first and only African American to be elected to a county-wide office in Champaign County.
Democrat Dick Durbin, Republican Mark Kirk, and Republican Congressman Rodney Davis of Taylorville made the announcement Wednesday regarding the late James Burgess, who was elected Champaign County State’s Attorney in 1972.
He is also a war veteran, leading the 761st Tank Battalion, the first African-American armored unit to enter battle during World War II. Burgess died in 1997.
Burgess’ son, Steve, who lives in Urbana, had tried to get the federal courthouse in Urbana named for his father.
“I’m just relieved, because I’ve been working on this for three and a half years," he said. "I’m certainly humbled with what’s taken place. And I realize it’s not an everyday occurrence. Actually, it’s never happened in my lifetime here in town. I think the last building that was named after somebody here was the Springer Building."
(The old downtown Champaign Post Office, now the Springer Cultural Center at 301 N. Randolph Street, is named for former Congressman William L. Springer)
The legislation regarding the Champaign Post Office at 302 East Green Street was introduced Wednesday morning. Burgess said it is possible the measure could be approved and signed by President Obama by July 4th.
Both the Champaign County Board and Urbana City Council had passed resolutions seeking Burgess’ name on the federal courthouse.
But Congressman Davis said this was no longer about an individual building, but making sure James Burgess’ legacy would live on in Champaign County.
“I didn’t talk to anybody who was opposed to putting him his name on a courthouse," Davis said. "But I think we’re here to talk about honoring Mr. Burgess, and this is a great opportunity to do so.”
Steve Burgess said the process for placing a name on a federal building has changes over the last few years.
"In the last year or so, I came to the realization that it was really more about not only my dad, but really his story, but what inspiration that is for people in this community going forward," he said.
If the measure passes, Burgess said a formal dedication ceremony will be scheduled.