Texas Day by Day

On this day in Texas history…

Barbara Jordan dies

January 17th, 1996

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On this day in 1996, Barbara Jordan, politician and educator, died in Austin. She was born in Houston in 1936 and grew up in that city's Fourth Ward. Jordan received a law degree from Boston University in 1959 and returned to Houston in 1960. She became involved in politics by registering black voters for the 1960 presidential campaign, and twice ran unsuccessfully for the state senate in the early 1960s. In 1967 she became the first black state senator since 1883. Eschewing a confrontational approach, Jordan quickly developed a reputation as a master of detail and an effective pragmatist and gained the respect of her thirty white male colleagues. In 1973 she successfully ran for the U.S. House of Representatives from the Eighteenth Texas District. She was the first black woman from a Southern state to serve in Congress, and, with Andrew Young, was one of the first two African Americans elected to Congress from the South in the twentieth century. She gained national prominence for her role in the 1974 Watergate hearings as a member of the House Judiciary Committee. Impressed with her eloquence and stature in the party, the Democratic party chose her to deliver the keynote address at the 1976 Democratic national convention; she was the first woman to do so. In 1979, after three terms in congress, Jordan retired from politics to accept the Lyndon Baines Johnson Public Service Professorship at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. Among her many honors were induction into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1990 and a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994.

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