Barbara Jordan: Black History In Politics

Barbara Jordan: Black History In Politics

Lacoyia Eure
5 minute read

Texas congresswoman Barbara Jordan (1936-1996) rose to the nationwide phase from Houston's mainly African American Fifth Ward, ending up being a public defender of the U.S. Constitution and a leading presence in Democratic Party politics for two decades. She was the first Black female elected to the Texas state senate and the very first Black Texan in Congress. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, she gave the prominent opening speech of Richard Nixon's 1974 impeachment hearings. She retired after three terms in Congress to end up being a teacher and policy advocate.



Barbara Jordan: Early Life and Education

Barbara Charline Jordan was born February 21, 1936, in her parents' home in Houston. Her father, Benjamin Jordan, was a Baptist minister and warehouse clerk. Her mother Arlyne was a homemaker, house maid and church instructor.

Did you know? Texas congresswoman Barbara Jordan's great-grandfather, Edward Patton, was one of a number of Black representatives who served in the Texas legislature throughout Reconstruction.

Jordan participated in the segregated Phillis Wheatley High School, where a career day speech by Edith Sampson, a Black lawyer, inspired her to end up being an attorney. Jordan was a member of the inaugural class at Texas Southern University, a Black college hastily created by the Texas legislature to prevent having to integrate the University of Texas. There Jordan joined the dispute team and helped lead it to nationwide renown. When they came to Houston, the group famously connected Harvard's debaters.

Jordan graduated magna cum laude from Texas Southern University in 1956 and was accepted at Boston University's law school. 3 years later, Jordan made her law degree as one of just two African American females in her class. She passed the Massachusetts and Texas bars and went back to Houston to open a law office in the Fifth Ward.


Barbara Jordan: Texas State Senator

Jordan volunteered for John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential project, heading a Harris County citizen drive that yielded an 80-percent turnout. She twice ran unsuccessfully for the Texas House before winning the 1966 contest for a newly created Texas State Senate district.


Barbara Jordan

In Austin she won the respect of her colleagues and worked to pass a state minimum wage law that covered farmworkers. In her final year in the state senate, Jordan's coworkers chose her president pro tem, allowing her to act as governor for a day-- June 10, 1972-- in accordance with state custom.



Barbara Jordan: Years in Congress

Five months later on Jordan ran for Congress as the Democratic candidate for Houston's 18th District. She won, becoming the first African American female from a Southern state to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. With support from her close advisor Lyndon B. Johnson, Jordan was selected to key posts consisting of on the House Judiciary Committee.

On July 25, 1974, Jordan provided the 15-minute opening statement of the Judiciary Committee's impeachment hearing for Richard Nixon. Her speech was a strong defense of the U.S. Constitution (which, she noted, had actually not at first included African Americans in its "We, individuals") and its balances and checks developed to prevent abuse of power. She said, "I am not going to sit here and be an idle viewer to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution."

The impeachment speech assisted result in Nixon's resignation over the Watergate scandal and won Jordan nationwide acclaim for her rhetoric, intellect and stability. 2 years later she was asked to provide the keynote address at the 1976 Democratic National Convention-- another first for an African American lady.

While in Congress Jordan dealt with legislation promoting females's rights, supported the Equal Rights Amendment and cosponsored a costs that would have given housewives Social Security benefits based on their domestic labor.

Barbara Jordan


Barbara Jordan: Retirement, Health Troubles, Final Honors

Jordan retired from Congress in 1979 to end up being a teacher at the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. She ended up being an active public speaker and advocate, collecting 25 honorary doctorates. Her vehement opposition assisted hinder George Bush's election of Robert Bork (who had actually opposed numerous civil rights cases) to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Jordan, who had actually experienced several sclerosis considering that 1973, was wheelchair-bound by the time she was invited to offer her 2nd Democratic convention keynote address in 1992. Till her death she stayed private about her illnesses, which lastly consisted of diabetes and cancer.

In 1994 Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's greatest civilian honor. Jordan passed away of leukemia-related pneumonia on January 17, 1996. Breaking barriers even in death, she ended up being the first African American to be buried among the guvs, senators and congressmen in the Texas State Cemetery.


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