Remembering Congresswoman Barbara Jordan on the 81st anniversary of her birth.
Barbara Jordan was a lawyer, educator, a leader of the Civil Rights Movement and an American politician – the first African-American congresswoman to come from the deep South and the first woman ever elected to the Texas Senate (1966). The scholar who stirred the nation with her Churchillian denunciations of the Watergate abuses is best remembered for her defense of the Constitution during the impeachment hearings of President Richard Nixon in 1974. Jordan’s reputation as a national leader was heightened by her involvement in the House Judiciary Committee and the hearings that resulted in the impeachment of President Richard Nixon. However, Jordan’s political career spans several decades and includes service in the Texas Senate, the House of Representatives and as a presidential and gubernatorial adviser. Jordan’s career demonstrated her commitment to fairness and to legislation that protects the underserved and underrepresented populations of the United States.
In 1976, Barbara Jordan became the first woman and first African American to give the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention. In 1979, she retired from her career as a public servant and returned to Texas as a full professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. Although retired, she remained heavily involved in politics. She spoke out against the Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork in 1987 and in 1992, she was asked to be keynote speaker again at the Democratic National Convention.
First diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in the early 1970’s, the disease would be responsible for Barbara Jordan’s declining health. On January 17, 1996, she died of complications from pneumonia. Jordan lay in state at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin for a public goodbye. Her papers are housed at the Barbara Jordan Archives at her alma mater, Texas Southern University.