Jordan, Barbara, 1936-1996

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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.

Barbara Charline Jordan was born in Houston, Texas, on February 21, 1936, one of three daughters of Benjamin M. Jordan and Arlyne Patten Jordan. Benjamin Jordan, a graduate of Tuskegee Institute, worked in a local warehouse before becoming pastor of Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church, which his family had long attended. Arlyne Jordan was an accomplished public speaker. Barbara Jordan was educated in the Houston public schools and graduated from Phyllis Wheatley High School in 1952. She earned a BA from Texas Southern University in 1956 and a law degree from Boston University in 1959. That same year, she was admitted to the Massachusetts and Texas bars, and she began to practice law in Houston in 1960. To supplement her income (she worked temporarily out of her parents’ home), Jordan was employed as an administrative assistant to a county judge.

Barbara Jordan’s political turning point occurred when she worked on the John F. Kennedy presidential campaign in 1960. She eventually helped manage a highly organized get-out-the-vote program that served Houston’s 40 African-American precincts. In 1962 and 1964, Jordan ran for the Texas house of representatives but lost both times, so in 1966 she ran for the Texas senate when court-enforced redistricting created a constituency that consisted largely of minority voters. Jordan won, defeating a white liberal and becoming the first African-American state senator in the U.S. since 1883 as well as the first Black woman ever elected to that chamber. The other 30 (male, white) senators received her coolly, but Jordan quickly earned a reputation as an effective legislator who pushed through bills establishing the state’s first minimum wage law, anti-discrimination clauses in business contracts, and the Texas Fair Employment Practices Commission. On March 28, 1972, Jordan’s peers elected her president pro tempore of the Texas senate, making her the first Black woman in America to preside over a legislative body. In seconding the nomination, one of Jordan’s male colleagues on the other side of the chamber stood, spread his arms open, and said, “What can I say? Black is beautiful.” One of Jordan’s responsibilities as president pro tempore was to serve as acting governor when the governor and lieutenant governor were out of the state. When Jordan filled that largely ceremonial role on June 10, 1972, she became the first Black chief executive in the nation.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Barbara Jordan. Texas Woman's University Library, Mary Evelyn Blagg-Huey Library
referencedIn UT Barbara Jordan Historical Essay Competition Archive 38058282. 96-111; 97-107; 98-133; 99-125; 2000-65; 2001-075; 2002-085; 2003-051; 2008-226; 2009-102; 2010-103; 2011-100; 2012-113., 1996- Dolph Briscoe Center for American History
referencedIn Commencement Programs and Records, 1873-2004 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library
referencedIn Records, 1836-2003, (bulk 1985-2000) Texas State Archives
referencedIn Fagan Dickson papers MS 281, 1950-1978 Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University
referencedIn Sampson, Edith S. (Edith Spurlock), 1901?-1979. Papers, 1927-1979 (inclusive) 1934-1979 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn McNamee, Wally, 1932-2017. Wally McNamee Photographic Archive, ca. 1950-2017 Dolph Briscoe Center for American History
referencedIn Seals, Woodrow, 1917-1990. Judge Woodrow Seals Papers, 1941-1990 [Part 2] Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library,
referencedIn National Organization for Women. Records: Series I-XVI, 1961-1999 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Robert N. Giaimo Papers., undated, 1956-1981. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Center.
referencedIn Swanson, Dick L., 1935-. Swanson, Dick L., photographic archive, 1959-1994. University of Texas Libraries
referencedIn Dobbs, Jeannine. Class essays, 1977. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1927-1979 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Houston Post, Washington D.C. Bureau, Collection, 1963-1995 Dolph Briscoe Center for American History
referencedIn Audiotape collection of the National Women's Conference, 1977 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Houston Post, Washington D.C. Bureau, Collection, 1963-1995 Dolph Briscoe Center for American History
referencedIn UT Barbara Jordan Historical Essay Competition archive. University of Texas Libraries
referencedIn Williams, S. Juanita, 1926-. S. Juanita Williams photographs, 1962-1983. Texas African American Photography Archive
referencedIn Winegarten (Ruthe) papers, 1912-2004 Dolph Briscoe Center for American History
referencedIn East, Catherine Shipe. Papers of Catherine Shipe East. 1941-1995 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Sue Brandt McBee Collection of African American Culture AR. 2001. 020., 1980-2003., 1950-2003. Austin History Center, Austin Public Library..
referencedIn Castillo, Leonel (Leonel J.),. Oral history interview with Leonel Castillo, 1996 [videorecording]. University of Texas at Arlington, Central Library
referencedIn McNamee, Wally, 1932-2017. Wally McNamee Photographic Archive, ca. 1950-2017 Dolph Briscoe Center for American History
creatorOf Southern Elections Fund. Papers, 1965-1975 of the Fund and of the chairman of the Board of Trustees, Julian Bond [manuscript]. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Hearon, Shelby, 1931-. Papers, 1966-1996. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn UT Office of Community Relations, Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. UT Office of Community Relations, Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, records, 1997-2009. University of Texas Libraries
referencedIn Cramer, Edsel M., 1924-. Edsel M. Cramer papers, 1940-1980. Archives of American Art
referencedIn UT Office of Community Relations, Division of Diversity and Community Engagement Records 2007-086; 2009-338; 2010-057., 1997-2009 Dolph Briscoe Center for American History
referencedIn Candidates for public office campaign materials, 1966-1976 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Seals, Woodrow, 1917-1990. Judge Woodrow Seals Papers, 1941-1990 [Part 1] Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library,
referencedIn Biography -- Jordan, Barbara. Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library
creatorOf Records of the U.S. House of Representatives. 1789 - 2015. Committee Papers. 1813 - 2011. Representative Barbara Jordan's Corrections to the Transcript of Her Statement on the Articles of Impeachment of President Richard Nixon
referencedIn Inventory of the William A. Owens Papers (Part Two) LIT/Owens MSS 00089., 1940-1980 Cushing Memorial Library,
creatorOf Jordan, Barbara, 1936-1996. Oral history interview with Barbara Jordan, 1970 July 7. University of North Texas Library, UNT
referencedIn Winegarten, Ruthe. Poster, 1967. Texas Woman's University Library, Mary Evelyn Blagg-Huey Library
referencedIn Records, (inclusive), (bulk), 1959-2002, 1966-1998 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Herstory
Relation Name
associatedWith African American History Oral History Project. corporateBody
alumnusOrAlumnaOf Boston university. School of Law corporateBody
associatedWith Carter, Jimmy, 1924- person
associatedWith Castillo, Leonel (Leonel J.), person
associatedWith Catherine East, 1916-1996 person
associatedWith Cramer, Edsel M., 1924- person
memberOf Delta Sigma Theta Sorority corporateBody
associatedWith Dickson, Fagan, 1904-1977 person
associatedWith Dobbs, Jeannine. person
associatedWith Giaimo, Robert N. person
associatedWith Hearon, Shelby, 1931-. person
associatedWith Houston Post , Washington D.C. Bureau corporateBody
associatedWith Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973 person
associatedWith Marcello, Ronald E. person
associatedWith McBee, Sue Brandt corporateBody
associatedWith McNamee, Wally person
associatedWith McNamee, Wally. person
associatedWith National Organization for Women corporateBody
associatedWith National Organization for Women. corporateBody
associatedWith National Women's Conference corporateBody
associatedWith Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994 person
associatedWith North Texas State University. Oral History Collection. corporateBody
correspondedWith Owens, William A., 1905- person
associatedWith Sampson, Edith S. (Edith Spurlock), 1901? -1979 person
associatedWith Sampson, Edith S. (Edith Spurlock), 1901?-1979. person
associatedWith Seals, Woodrow Bradley person
associatedWith Seals, Woodrow Bradley person
associatedWith Southern Elections Fund. corporateBody
associatedWith Swanson, Dick L., 1935- person
memberOf Texas. Legislature. Senate. corporateBody
associatedWith Texas Political History Oral History Project. corporateBody
alumnusOrAlumnaOf Texas Southern University corporateBody
associatedWith Texas. State Preservation Board. corporateBody
employeeOf Tuskegee University corporateBody
memberOf United States. Congress. House corporateBody
memberOf United States. Congress. House. Committee on the Judiciary corporateBody
associatedWith University Archives corporateBody
associatedWith University of Nebraska-Lincoln corporateBody
employeeOf University of Texas at Austin. corporateBody
associatedWith UT Barbara Jordan Historical Essay Competition corporateBody
associatedWith UT Office of Community Relations, Division of Diversity and Community Engagement corporateBody
associatedWith Williams, S. Juanita, 1926- person
associatedWith Winegarten, Ruthe person
associatedWith Winegarten, Ruthe. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Austin TX US
Houston TX US
Tuskegee AL US
Boston MA US
Subject
Political Campaigns
Legislators
African American women legislators
Lawyers
Politics
Women politicians
Women legislators
Social legislation
Civil rights
Civil rights workers
Women--Political activity
Law
Occupation
Representatives, U.S. Congress--Texas
College professors
Lawyers
State Senator
Administrative assistants
Function

Person

Birth 1936-02-21

Death 1996-01-17

Female

Americans

English

Information

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