In observance of Women’s History Month, The Savannah Tribune will salute women who have made significant contributions to our society and world.
Barbara Charline Jordan was an American politician who was both a product, and a leader, of the Civil Rights movement. She was the first African-American elected to the Texas Senate after reconstruction and the first Southern black woman ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
She was an inspirational figure in the Progressive movement through her powerful public speaking and her triumphant refusal to be defined by disability. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among numerous other honors. On her death she became the first African- American Woman to be interred in the Texas State Cemetery. The main terminal of Austin-Bergstrom Airport is named for her.
Jordan campaigned for the Texas House of Representatives in 1962 and 1964. Her persistence won her 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 tem. of the state senate and served one day, June 10, 1972, as acting governor of Texas
In 1972, she was elected to the United States House of Representatives, becoming the first black woman from a Southern state to serve in the House. She was also the first woman to represent Texas in the House in her own right She received extensive support from former President Lyndon 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.
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 again was a keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention in 1992.
In 1995, Jordan chaired a Congressional commission that advocated increased restriction of immigration, called for all U.S. residents to carry a national identity card and increased penalties on employers that violated U.S. immigration regulations.
Jordan died in 1996 from complications of pneumonia. On April 24, 2009, a Barbara Jordan statue 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.
Coming next week…. Local women of influence.