Prior to serving as Chickasaw governor, Benjamin C. Burney served in Shocoe's Chickasaw Battalion of Mounted Volunteers for the Confederate Army. After the war, he became a farmer and stockraiser in what is now Marshall County, Oklahoma.
Throughout his life, Burney had an interest in the political affairs of the Chickasaw tribe and served as national treasurer for the Chickasaw Nation from 1876 to 1878.
Burney entered the race for the governorship of the Chickasaws in the fall of 1878. The candidacy of Governor Benjamin C. Burney was primarily to enable Benjamin Franklin Overton to resume the executive functions of the Chickasaw Nation government at a later date. Due to constitutional inhibitions, Overton was ineligible to run for a third consecutive term. Burney was Governor Benjamin Franklin Overton’s brother-in-law.
The single term of Governor Burney was uneventful. The tribal affairs shifted into a neutral pace, simply biding the time when Benjamin Franklin Overton would once again take over the reins of Chickasaw government.