Barbara Charline Jordan began her distinguished public service career with her election to the Texas Legislature in 1966. Jordan’s victory made her the first African American woman to serve in the Texas Senate and the first African-American elected to the body since 1883. Barbara Jordan rose to the national stage from Houston’s largely African-American Fifth Ward, becoming a public defender of the U.S. Constitution and a leading presence in Democratic Party politics for two decades.

Jordan attended the segregated Phyllis Wheatley High School, where a career day speech by Edith Sampson, a black lawyer, inspired her to become an attorney. Jordan was a member of the inaugural class at Texas Southern University, a black college hastily created by the Texas legislature to avoid having to integrate the University of Texas. There Jordan joined the debate team and helped lead it to national renown. The team famously tied Harvard’s debaters when they came to Houston. Jordan graduated magna cum laude from Texas Southern University in 1956 and was accepted at Boston University’s law school. Three years later, Jordan earned her law degree as one of only two African-American women in her class. She passed the Massachusetts and Texas bars and returned to Houston to open a law office in the Fifth Ward.

In 1972 she became the first African American woman from the South to be elected to the United States Congress, serving as a member of the House of Representatives until 1979. The highlights of Jordan’s legislative career include her landmark speech during Richard Nixon’s impeachment hearings in 1974, her successful efforts in 1975 to expand the Voting Rights Act to include language for minorities, and her keynote address to the Democratic National Convention in 1976. From 1979 until her death in 1996, Jordan served as a distinguished professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) School (University of Texas), holding the LBJ Centennial Chair in National Policy. She was again a keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention in 1992.

"For all of its uncertainty, we cannot flee the future…. We must address and master the future together.”- Barbara Jordan
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