The African American Western Heritage Center, Inc. would like to acknowledge the recognition of the contributions of our first African American Women. She is the Honorable Barbara Charline Jordan of Houston, Texas. We selected the Honorable Jordan over many other excellent black women to be considered. Representative Jordan stood her ground during the tumultuous ending of the 1960’s and the jim crow period. She exhibited strength,character, discipline, morality, intellect, determination in the face of unsurmountable odds on The national stage.
Representative Jordan was born February 21, 1936 in Houston, Texas’s fifth ward. She passed away January 17,1996. Jordan’s childhood was centered around her church life. Her mother Mrs. Arylne Patten Jordan was a teacher in the church and her father Benjamin Jordan a Baptist Preacher. Through her mother, Jordan was the great grandaughter of Edward Patton, who was one of the last African American Member of the Texas House Representative. Prior to the Disenfranchisement of Black Texans under Jim Crow enforcement.
Barbara Jordan was the youngest of three children. Her siblings Rose Mary Jordan McGowan, and Bennie Jordan Creswell were raised in the fifth ward. She graduated from 9/=aaPhillis Wheatley High School in 1952 with honors. Jordan credited a speech she heard inher high school years by Edith S. Simpson with inspiring her to become an attorney. Because of segregation, she could not attend the university of Texas at Austin insteadchose Texas Southern University , an historically black institution, majoring in politicalscience and history. At Texas Southern University, Jordan was a national champion debater,defeating opponents from Yale, and Brown and tying Harvard University. She graduatedMagna cum laude in `1956 at Texas Southern University. She went on to Boston UniversityLaw School graduating in 1959. After graduating she taught political science at Tuskegee Institute. In 1960 Jordan returned to Houston and started a private law practice.
It was her political career that brought fame to her life. She campaigned unsuccessfully forThe Texas House of Representative in1962 and 1964. She won a seat in the Texas SenateIn 1966, becoming the first African American state senator in Texas since 1883 and the firstBlack women ever 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. Barbara Jordan also served as governor of Texas for one day, June 10,1972. During her time in the Texas Legislature, Jordan sponsored or co-sponsored seventy (70) bills.
In 1972 she was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives, the first women in her own right to represent Texas in our national House. In 1974 she made an influential speech before the House Judiciary Committee supporting the impeachment of President Nixon. In 1976, Jordan was mentioned as a possible running mate for Jimmy Carter of Georgia, Became instead the first African American women to deliver a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.
On July 25, 1974, Jordan delivered a 15 minutes televised speech in front of members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. She presented an opening speech during the hearings that were part of impeachment process against President Richard Nixon. The speech is thought To be one of the greatest speeches of 20th-century American History. Through out her speech, Jordan strongly stood by the Constitution of the United States. She defended the checks and balance 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 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 to be impeachable offenses. She protested that the watergate scandal will forever ruin the trust that american citizens have for their government. This powerful and influential statement earned Jordan national praise for her rhetoric, moral and wisdom.
The Honorable Jordan made many contributions to our country. She supported the community investment act of 1977
She supported the renewal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
She also authored an Act that ended federal authorization of price fixing by manufacturer
The Honorable Jordan also supported the Equal Rights Amendment in 1979
The National Archives describes Barbara Jordan as the first LGBTQ+ women in Congress
Recognition and Legacy
1984 – Inducted into the Texas Women Hall Of Fame
1990 – Inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame
1992 – The Spingam Medal from the NAACP
1993 – The Elizabeth Blackwell Award from Hobart and Williams Colleges
1994 – The Presidential Medal of Freedom
1995 – The second ever female awardee of the United States Military Academy’s Sylvanus