Updated: Burgess post office designation heads to president

The naming of a post office in Champaign after the only African American state's attorney in Champaign County is now one step away from becoming a reality.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation on Tuesday that would name the post office at 302 E. Green St., C, as the James R. Burgess Junior Post Office Building.  That bill only needs President Barack Obama's signature to become law after an identical bill previously passed the Senate.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville spoke about the bill on the House floor Tuesday, saying a lot of work went into the legislation reaching this point.

James Burgess' granddaughter, Mariah Burgess, said she was thrilled when she heard about Tuesday's vote.

"I was very excited," Burgess, 22, of Urbana, told The News-Gazette. "This was a long time coming."

Mariah said her father, Steve Burgess, had been working for years to try to have first the federal courthouse in Urbana and later the post office named after her grandfather.

"My dad put his heart and soul into this effort over the last few years," she said. "Every time I saw him he told me how important this was to him."

Mariah said Steve Burgess used to visit her at the college she attended, Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., when he went to lobby for the post office designation at the U.S. Capitol.

"This is an honor for our entire family," Mariah said. "My grandpa would have been extremely humbled by this. He worked hard his entire life to support our family, and he would be very proud to see my father's efforts realized."

Mariah said, assuming Obama signs the legislation into law, she would try to attend the dedication ceremonies.

"I absolutely would love to be there as long as it works out with my schedule," she said.

Burgess was the first African American to be elected countywide in Champaign County when he was elected as state's attorney in 1972. He later was appointed as a U.S. attorney.

An earlier effort to name the federal courthouse in Urbana after Burgess was unsuccessful.

 

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