Under the Dome

Richard Burr

Office District Status
U.S. Senator Statewide Incumbent
Party In Office Since Term Ends
Republican 2004 2010
Level of Government  
Date of Birth Birthplace Now Lives In
November 30, 1955 Charlottesville, VA Winston-Salem, NC


U.S. Sen. Richard Burr is the most prominent North Carolina Republican in office. The son of a Presbyterian minister, he played football at Wake Forest University and became national sales manager for an appliance company. In 1992, he lost his first race for the U.S. House of Representatives, but he was swept in as a member of the Republican Revolution two years later. After easily winning re-election four times, he defeated Erskine Bowles in the 2004 Senate race. He was rumored to be a potential running mate for John McCain in 2008. He is running for re-election in 2010.


He drives a gray 1974 Volkswagen Thing.



Marital Status
Sons, Tyler and William

Richard Burr is the senior U.S. senator from North Carolina.

Early Life and Education

Richard Mauze Burr was born Nov. 30, 1955, in Charlottesville, Va., to Martha Gillum Burr and the Rev. David Burr. His father was a Presbyterian minister; his mother, an elementary school teacher.

In 1962, his family moved to Winston-Salem. 

A star football player at Richard J. Reynolds High, he played in the 1973 Shrine Bowl and was inducted into the school's sports hall of fame in 2009. He graduated in 1974.

He then played tailback at Wake Forest University, receiving a bachelor's degree in communications in 1978. 

An avid outdoorsman, he has long hunted deer and wild turkey and recently became interested in fly-fishing. A former smoker, he has been known to use Skoal tobacco dip.


Burr's wife, Brooke, is a real estate agent. They have two sons, Tyler and William. 

He is a 12th cousin of former Vice President Aaron Burr

Religious Affiliation

He is a Methodist. 

Professional Career

From 1978 to 1994, he worked for Carswell Distributing Inc., a wholesale commercial products company, eventually becoming national sales manager.

U.S. House of Representatives

Burr first ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992. He lost to longtime Democratic Rep. Steve Neal by seven percent, a strong showing for a first-time candidate.

Two years later, Neal did not run for re-election, leaving the seat open for the first time since 1976.

Burr ran again, defeating then state Sen. Alexander P. "Sandy" Sands in a closely watched race as a signer of the Contract with America written by future Speaker Newt Gingrich.

He was the first sitting U.S. representative from North Carolina elected by popular vote to the U.S. Senate. 

He was re-elected four times without serious opposition.

From the start, Burr focused on streamlining the Food and Drug Administration's approval process for drugs and medical devices, which he said was slow and cumbersome. His bill passed in 1997.

He also opposed FDA regulation of tobacco, an issue he later tackled as a U.S. senator.

While serving on a subcommittee debating a bill to mandate low-flow toilets in 1999, he read his remarks from a roll of toilet paper as a gag.

Senate Career 

As a member of the House, Burr long hinted that he would run for Senate. 

Although initially interested in running for former Sen. Jesse Helms' open seat in 2002, he deferred when Elizabeth Dole emerged as a candidate. 

In 2004, he was recruited by White House strategist Karl Rove to run against Sen. John Edwards, but he ended up facing off against Erskine Bowles when Edwards ran for vice president.

Bowles, who later became president of the University of North Carolina system, has since praised Burr.

Virginia Sen. George Allen introduced Burr and six other freshmen as "The Magnificent Seven," and gave each a football inscribed with the percentage of their wins.

In 2006, he passed legislation creating a new federal agency to oversee vaccine and drug development for terrorist attacks and flu pandemics. He has also sponsored a bill, nicknamed "Bioshield Two," that would give more authority to the agency.

He was rumored to be a potential running mate for John McCain in 2008.

In 2009, Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona named Burr chief deputy whip for the Republican minority. 

2010 Re-Election

By early 2009, it was clear that Burr's seat would be one of the more heavily contested races of 2010.

U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler flirted with running for the Democratic nomination, while former Treasurer Richard Moore was also mentioned. Though most observers expected Attorney General Roy Cooper to run, Cooper declined to run in mid-May.

When Burr admitted he had told his wife to take money out of the ATM during the banking crisis, his remarks stirred a brief flap, though he later said his words were misconstrued.

Along with Sen. Tom Coburn, Burr is taking the lead role on the GOP alternative to President Obama's health care reform proposal, causing some observers to say he could be a "rising national star" if re-elected.

Research and reporting by Ryan Teague Beckwith. 


Former sales manager

Community Involvement:
Not specified.

Contact Info

U.S. Senate
217 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C., 20510
North Carolina Office
2000 West First St., Suite 508, Winston-Salem, NC 27104



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