Woman Making History #51: Barbara Jordan


babara_jordan.jpgEek. I nearly missed a day. Too busy playing Sims...

Barbara Jordan is a personal heroine of mine. She's a pretty big deal down here, and with good reason, too. There's even a (fairly terrible) statue of her at the airport.

Barbara Jordan was born in the Houston Fifth Ward in 1936. Her father was a preacher. She graduated from Texas Southern University in 1956 and Boston University Law School in 1959. After passing the bar, she returned to Houston to set up practice.

Jordan's first political involvement was in the Kennedy-Johnson campaign in 1960. She made unsuccessful runs for the Texas House of Representatives in 1962 and 1964, then won a seat in the state senate in 1966. She was the first African-American Texas senator since Reconstruction and the first black woman ever to serve on the state senate. She served in the state senate until 1972, when she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She was the first black woman from a Southern state to serve in the House.

In the House, Jordan's accomplishments included the impeachment of Richard Nixon, the renewal of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 (and its expansion to cover other minorities), and the Community Reinvestment act of 1977. Jordan was also lauded as a speaker, with her keynote at the 1976 Democratic Convention widely considered one of the best in modern history. She was both the first woman and the first African-American ever to give the address.

In 1979, Jordan retired from the Senate and started teaching at the University of Texas Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. By this time, she had begun suffering from multiple sclerosis. Her health gradually deteriorated for many years, but she kept on working. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 and was elected to the national Women's Hall of Fame in 1990. President Bill Clinton wanted to nominate her for the Supreme Court, but by the time he could do so, her health would not permit her to serve.

Barbara Jordan died in 1996. She lay in state at the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum before her burial at the Texas State Cemetery, where she was the first black woman ever interred.

National Women's Hall of Fame

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