Bipartisan James R. Burgess Jr. Post Office Building Bill Signed Into Law

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) and U.S. Representative Rodney Davis (R-IL) today announced that President Obama has signed into law their bipartisan legislation to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 302 East Green Street in Champaign, Illinois, as the “James R. Burgess Jr. Post Office Building.”

“Naming a post office in Champaign is a fitting tribute to Mr. Burgess’ distinguished record of service, both as part of our nation’s military overseas and right here in Central Illinois,” Durbin said. “I am proud to join my colleagues in completing the effort undertaken by Mr. Burgess’ late son, Steve, to honor this longtime public servant and trailblazing Illinoisan. I look forward to joining the Burgess family and other members of the Urbana-Champaign community in celebrating at the James R. Burgess Jr. Post Office very soon.”

“James Burgess' contributions to our nation and state will not be forgotten,” Kirk said. “As leader of the first African-American armored battalion in WWII, Champaign County State's Attorney, and as a U.S. Attorney, this post office is a fitting tribute to a man who dedicated his life to public service.”

“This day has been such a long time coming, and I am so incredibly happy for the late-Steve Burgess the entire Burgess family,” said Davis. “I have to thank my colleagues in the House and the Senate for working hard to ensure that this bill was passed and on the president's desk before the end of the year and the president for signing it so quickly. In the coming months, we'll celebrate the life of James R. Burgess Jr. at a ceremony at the post office with the entire Champaign-Urbana community. And while his son, Steve, won't be with us, he'll be smiling and beaming with pride knowing that the legacy of his father will live on forever.”

James R. Burgess Jr. was born on December 19, 1915 in Algood, Tennessee and served more than twenty years in the Army, playing a critical role in a largely unknown part of American military history as a leader of the 761st Tank Battalion, the first African-American armored unit to enter battle in World War II.

At age twenty nine, Mr. Burgess was a First Lieutenant in command of one of the six companies who served under General George Patton in Europe. Upon his retirement from the U.S. Army he had reached the rank of Major.

Soon after leaving the service in 1962, Burgess moved his wife and two sons to Champaign so that he could attend law school at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where 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 county-wide in Champaign County. Later, he was appointed as a U.S. Attorney for a large section of downstate Illinois.