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|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 18th district
January 3, 1973 – January 3, 1979
|Preceded by||Bob Price|
|Succeeded by||Mickey Leland|
|Member of the Texas Senate
from the 11th district
January 10, 1967 – January 3, 1973
|Preceded by||Bill Moore|
|Succeeded by||Chet Brooks|
Barbara Charline Jordan
(1936-02-21)February 21, 1936
Houston, Texas, U.S.
|Died||January 17, 1996(1996-01-17) (aged 59)
Austin, Texas, U.S.
|Domestic partner||Nancy Earl (late 1960s–1996)|
|Education||Texas Southern University (BA)
Boston University (LLB)
Barbara Charline Jordan (February 21, 1936 – January 17, 1996) was an American lawyer, educator and politician who was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. A Democrat, she was the first African American elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction and the first Southern African-American woman elected to the United States House of Representatives. She was best known for her eloquent opening statement at the House Judiciary Committee hearings during the impeachment process against Richard Nixon, and as the first African-American as well as the first woman to deliver a keynote address at the 1976 Democratic National Convention. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among numerous other honors. She was a member of the Peabody Awards Board of Jurors from 1978 to 1980. She was the first African-American woman to be buried in the Texas State Cemetery. Jordan's work as chair of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, which recommended reducing legal immigration by about one-third, is frequently cited by American immigration restrictionists.
Barbara Charline Jordan was born in Houston, Texas's Fifth Ward. Jordan's childhood was centered on church life. Her mother was Arlyne Patten Jordan, a teacher in the church, and her father was Benjamin Jordan, a Baptist preacher. Through her mother, Jordan was the great-granddaughter of Edward Patton, who was one of the last African American members of the Texas House of Representatives prior to disenfranchisement of Black Texans under Jim Crow. Barbara Jordan was the youngest of three children, with siblings Rose Mary Jordan McGowan and Bennie Jordan Creswell (1933–2000). Jordan attended Roberson Elementary School. She graduated from Phillis Wheatley High School in 1952 with honors.
Jordan credited a speech she heard in her high school years by Edith S. Sampson with inspiring her to become an attorney. Because of segregation, she could not attend The University of Texas at Austin and instead chose Texas Southern University, an historically-black institution, majoring in political science and history. At Texas Southern University, Jordan was a national champion debater, defeating opponents from Yale, and Brown and tying Harvard University. She graduated magna cum laude in 1956. At Texas Southern University, she pledged Delta Gamma chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority. She attended Boston University School of Law, graduating in 1959.
Jordan campaigned unsuccessfully in 1962 and 1964 for the Texas House of Representatives. She won a seat in the Texas Senate in 1966, becoming the first African-American state senator since 1883 and the first black woman to serve in that body. Re-elected to a full term in the Texas Senate in 1968, she served until 1972. She was the first African-American female to serve as president pro tempore of the state senate and served one day, June 10, 1972, as acting governor of Texas. Jordan is the only African-American woman to serve as governor of a state. During her time in the Texas Legislature, Jordan sponsored or cosponsored some 70 bills.
In 1972, she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, the first woman elected in her own right to represent Texas in the House. She received extensive support from former President Lyndon B. Johnson, who helped her secure a position on the House Judiciary Committee. In 1974, she made an influential televised speech before the House Judiciary Committee supporting the impeachment of President Richard Nixon, Johnson's successor as president. In 1975, she was appointed by Carl Albert, then Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, to the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.
In 1976, Jordan, mentioned as a possible running mate to Jimmy Carter of Georgia, became instead the first African-American woman to deliver a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. Despite not being a candidate, Jordan received one delegate vote (0.03%) for president at the Convention.
In November 1977, Barbara Jordan speaks at the 1977 National Women's Conference among other speakers including Rosalynn Carter, Betty Ford, Lady Bird Johnson, Bella Abzug, Audrey Colom, Claire Randall, Gerridee Wheeler, Cecilia Burciaga, Gloria Steinem, Lenore Hershey and Jean O'Leary.
Jordan retired from politics in 1979 and became an adjunct professor teaching ethics at the University of Texas at Austin Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. She was again a keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention in 1992.
In 1994, Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the NAACP presented her with the Spingarn Medal. She was honored many times and was given over 20 honorary degrees from institutions across the country, including Harvard and Princeton, and was elected to the Texas and National Women's Halls of Fame.
Statement on the Articles of Impeachment
On July 25, 1974, Jordan delivered a 15-minute televised speech in front of the members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. She presented an opening speech during the hearings that were part of the impeachment process against Richard Nixon. This speech is thought to be one of the greatest speeches of the 20th-century American history. Throughout her speech, Jordan strongly stood by the Constitution of the United States. She defended the checks and balances system, which was set in place to inhibit any politician from abusing their power. Jordan never flat out said that she wanted Nixon impeached, but rather subtly and cleverly implied her thoughts. She simply stated facts that proved Nixon to be untrustworthy and heavily involved in illegal situations, and quoted the drafters of the Constitution to argue that actions like Nixon's during the scandal corresponded with their understanding of impeachable offenses. She protested that the Watergate scandal will forever ruin the trust American citizens have for their government. This powerful and influential statement earned Jordan national praise for her rhetoric, morals, and wisdom.
Jordan supported the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, legislation that required banks to lend and make services available to underserved poor and minority communities. She supported the renewal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and expansion of that act to cover language minorities; this extended protection to Hispanics in Texas and was opposed by Texas Governor Dolph Briscoe and Secretary of State Mark White. She also authored an act that ended federal authorization of price fixing by manufacturers. During Jordan's tenure as a Congresswoman, she sponsored or cosponsored over 300 bills or resolutions, several of which are still in effect today as law.
U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform
From 1994 until her death, Jordan chaired the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform. The commission recommended that total immigration be cut by one-third to approximately 550,000 per year. The commission supported increasing enforcement against undocumented migrants and their employers, eliminating visa preferences for siblings and adult children of U.S. citizens, and ending unskilled immigration except for refugees and nuclear families. The commission's report to Congress said that it was "a right and responsibility of a democratic society to manage immigration so that it serves the national interest", concluded that "legal immigration has strengthened and can continue to strengthen this country" and "decrie[d] hostility and discrimination against immigrants as antithetical to the traditions and interests of the country." The commission recommended that the United States reduce the number of refugees admitted annually to a floor of 50,000 (this level would be lifted during emergencies).
Jordan's companion of approximately twenty years was Nancy Earl, an educational psychologist, whom she met on a camping trip in the late 1960s. Earl was an occasional speechwriter for Jordan, and later was a caregiver when Jordan began to suffer from multiple sclerosis in 1973. Considerable speculation exists as to Jordan's sexuality and the nature of her and Earl's relationship, something that neither Jordan nor Earl is known to have addressed, recorded or shared with others.
In the KUT-FM radio documentary Rediscovering Barbara Jordan, President Bill Clinton said that he had wanted to nominate Jordan for the United States Supreme Court, but by the time he could do so, Jordan's health problems prevented him from nominating her. Jordan later also suffered from leukemia.
On July 31, 1988, Jordan nearly drowned in her backyard swimming pool while doing physical therapy, but she was saved by Earl, who found her floating in the pool and revived her.
Recognition and legacy
- 1984: Inducted into the Texas Women's Hall of Fame
- 1990: Inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame
- 1992: The Spingarn Medal from the NAACP 
- 1993: The Elizabeth Blackwell Award from Hobart and William Smith Colleges
- 1994: The Presidential Medal of Freedom
- 1995: The second ever female awardee of the United States Military Academy's Sylvanus Thayer Award 
Her 1976 Democratic National Convention keynote address, the first major convention keynote speech ever by a woman and the first by an African American, was listed as #5 in American Rhetoric's Top 100 Speeches of the 20th Century (listed by rank).
Namesakes in Texas
A boulevard in central Austin is named after Jordan. Several schools bear her name, including elementary schools in Dallas, Texas, Odessa, Texas, and Austin, Texas, Barbara Jordan Early College Prep School, an elementary school in Richmond, Texas, Barbara C. Jordan Intermediate School, a middle school in Cibolo, Texas, and Barbara Jordan High School in Houston and The Barbara Jordan Institute for Policy Research at her undergraduate alma mater Texas Southern University. The Kaiser Family Foundation currently operates the Barbara Jordan Health Policy Scholars, a fellowship designed for people of color who are college juniors, seniors, and recent graduates as a summer experience working in a congressional office. There is also a park named after Jordan in Needville, Texas (The Barbara Jordan Park).
Namesake in Missouri
In 2000, the Jordan/Rustin Coalition (JRC) was created, honoring Jordan and Bayard Rustin, a leader in the civil rights movement and close confidante of Martin Luther King Jr. The organization mobilized gay and lesbian African Americans to aid in the passage of marriage equality in the state of California. According to its website, "the mission [of the JRC] is to empower Black same-gender loving, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and families in Greater Los Angeles, to promote equal marriage rights and to advocate for fair treatment of everyone without regard to race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression."
On March 27, 2000, a play based on Jordan's life premiered at the Victory Garden Theater in Chicago, Illinois. Titled, "Voice of Good Hope", Kristine Thatcher's biographical evocation of Jordan's life played in theaters from San Francisco to New York.
On April 24, 2009, a statue of Barbara Jordan was unveiled at the University of Texas at Austin, where Jordan taught at the time of her death. The Barbara Jordan statue campaign was paid for by a student fee increase approved by the University of Texas Board of Regents. The effort was originally spearheaded by the 2002–2003 Tappee class of the Texas Orange Jackets, the "oldest women's organization at the University" (of Texas at Austin).
In 2011, actor/playwright Jade Esteban Estrada portrayed Jordan in the solo musical comedy ICONS: The Lesbian and Gay History of the World, Vol. 5 which includes the song "Nancy's Eyes" sung by the character of Jordan with music and lyrics by Estrada.
The Barbara Jordan Media Awards are given annually to media professionals and students who "have produced material for the public which accurately and positively reports on individuals with disabilities, using People First language and respectful depictions".
The Barbara Jordan Public-Private Leadership Award is presented by Texas Southern University's School of Public Affairs and School of Law. Its first recipient was former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on June 4, 2015.
- History of the African-Americans in Houston
- List of African-American United States Representatives
- Texas African American History Memorial, Texas State Capitol
- Women in the United States House of Representatives
- Finkelman, Paul (2009). Encyclopedia of African American History 1896 to the Present: From the Age of Segregation to the Twenty-First Century. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 59–61. ISBN 978-0-19-516779-5.
- Clines, Francis X. "Barbara Jordan Dies at 59; Her Voice Stirred the Nation". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
- "JORDAN, Barbara Charline | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives". history.house.gov. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
- "George Foster Peabody Awards Board Members". www.peabodyawards.com.
"Barbara Jordan". Humanities Texas. Retrieved February 18, 2016.
... When she died, in 1996, her burial in the Texas State Cemetery marked yet another first: she was the first black woman interred there.
- Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Location 24267). McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition
- "Why does a NumbersUSA ad include a clip from 1995?". The Boston Globe. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
- "Was Barbara Jordan a 'White Nationalist'? | National Review". National Review. August 3, 2017. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
- "Barbara Jordan". Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved 2009-05-23.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link) at Beejae.com
- "Profile: Barbara Jordan (1936–1996)". Archived from the original on November 14, 2008. Retrieved 2009-05-23.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link) at Human Rights Campaign
- Ross, Irwin (February 1977). "Barbara Jordan-New Voice in Washington". The Reader's Digest: 148–152.
- "Stateswoman Barbara Jordan – A Closeted Lesbian". Planet Out. Archived from the original on December 14, 2007. Retrieved July 12, 2007.
- "Black Woman in Texas Is Governor for a Day (Published 1972)". The New York Times. June 11, 1972. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 28, 2021.
- "Today in Texas History: Governor Barbara Jordan?". Texas on the Potomac. June 10, 2010. Retrieved February 28, 2021.
- Barbara Jordan Papers, Special Collections, Texas Southern University, October 15, 2015.
- "Barbara C. Jordan". History.com. 2009. Retrieved May 7, 2015.
- "Our Campaigns - US President - D Convention Race - Jul 12, 1976". Retrieved July 4, 2015.
- “1977 National Women's Conference: A Question of Choices,” 1977-11-21, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting
- "Barbara C. Jordan Profile", The History Channel, A&E Television Networks, LLC. 1996-2013. Accessed October 5, 2013.
- "American Rhetoric: Top 100 Speeches", American Rhetoric Website, 2001-2013. Accessed 5 October 2013.
- "Mr. Newman's Digital Rhetorical Symposium: Barbara Jordan: Statement on the Articles of Impeachment, Newman Rhetoric Blogging Website, 2010. Accessed 5 October 2013.
- "Statement on the Articles of Impeachment". American Historic. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
- Seales, Chance (January 30, 2018). "Dems Weren't Always Pro-immigration - Just Ask The Jordan Commission". Newsy.
- "Trump's Misuse of Barbara Jordan's Legacy on Immigration - The Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS)". The Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS). Retrieved February 7, 2018.
- Pear, Robert (June 8, 1995). "Clinton Embraces a Proposal To Cut Immigration by a Third". The New York Times.
- Chang, Howard Fenghau (1998). Migration as international trade: the economic gains from the liberalized movement of labor. University of Southern California Law School.
- Smith, Clay (February 12, 1999). "Two Bios of Barbara". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
- "In a life of firsts, Barbara Jordan won a lasting legacy". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
- Transcript of Rediscovering Barbara Jordan Archived July 24, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, KUT.org, February 8, 2006. Retrieved November 4, 2006.
- "Barbara Jordan". About.com Dating & Relationships. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
- "Barbara Jordan is hospitalized". nytimes.com. Retrieved March 7, 2015.
- "Barbara Jordan dies at 59". nytimes.com. Retrieved March 7, 2015.
- "NAACP Spingarn Medal". Archived from the original on August 2, 2014. Retrieved November 29, 2014.
- "Barbara Jordan Sylvanus Thayer Award". Retrieved March 7, 2015.
- Michael E. Eidenmuller (February 13, 2009). "Top 100 Speeches of the 20th Century by Rank". American Rhetoric. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
- Michael E. Eidenmuller (July 25, 1974). "Barbara Jordan - Statement on House Judiciary Proceedings to Impeach President Richard Nixon". American Rhetoric. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
- "Jordan/Rustin Coalition". jrcla.org. September 20, 2010. Archived from the original on October 2, 2010. Retrieved September 20, 2010.
- Thatcher, Kristine (2004). Voice of Good Hope. Dramatists Play Service, Inc. ISBN 0-8222-1960-3.
- Siegel, Naomi. "THEATER REVIEW; She Had a Voice That Resonates Still", The New York Times, November 24, 2002. Retrieved November 20, 2008.
- Sanders, Joshunda (April 20, 2009). "Jordan's statue to grace UT campus: Dedication of Barbara Jordan statue on Friday will include a weeklong celebration". Statesman.com. Retrieved November 27, 2010.
- "Stamp honors political trailblazer Barbara Jordan". ABC13 Houston. Retrieved November 29, 2014.
- Victor Salvo // The Legacy Project. "2012 INDUCTEES". Retrieved November 29, 2014.
- "Barbara Jordan Media Awards - Office of the Texas Governor - Greg Abbott". gov.texas.gov.
- "Houston Forward Times". forwardtimesonline.com.
- de Luna, Marcy (September 20, 2016). "Developer has mega mixed-use plans for defunct downtown post office, call it Post HTX". Culture Map Houston. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
- United States Congress. "Barbara Jordan (id: J000266)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
- Jordan's Statement on the Articles of Impeachment During the Nixon Impeachment Hearings in Text and Audio from AmericanRhetoric.com
- Jordan's 1976 Democratic National Convention Keynote Address in Text and Audio from AmericanRhetoric.com
- Jordan's 1992 Democratic National Convention Address Transcript from AmericanRhetoric.com
- Barbara Jordan, Governor of Texas for a day, program of ceremonies, June 10, 1972, hosted by the Portal to Texas History
- Interview with Max Sherman, editor of Barbara Jordan – Speaking the Truth with Eloquent Thunder on kaisernetwork.org
- Oral History Interviews with Barbara Jordan, from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library
- The Texas Experience - Barbara Jordan Presents Lyndon Baines Johnson , from the Texas Archive of the Moving Image
- Special Collections, Texas Southern University
- This American Life: Before Things Went to Hell, Act One, January 13, 2019
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Barbara Jordan at Find a Grave
| Member of the Texas Senate
from the 11th district
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 18th congressional district
|Party political offices|
| Keynote Speaker of the Democratic National Convention
Served alongside: John Glenn
| Keynote Speaker of the Democratic National Convention
Served alongside: Bill Bradley, Zell Miller
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