These days, when you say you’re from Texas, you’re likely to get a few smirks and comments about politicians from our state. Whether it’s Rick “Good Hair” Perry, or either of the George Bushes, the politicians folks hear about from our state tend to be conservative, and tend to be hated by just about as many folks as those who like them. So, for those who hate Texas, or are predisposed to, this doesn’t help.
So, for all you potential or active Texas-haters out there, let me remind you of another politician and an unlikely Texas legend: Barbara Jordan…
The following is from Wikipedia:
Jordan was born in Houston, Texas’s Fifth Ward. Jordan attended Wheatley High School and graduated magna cum laude from Texas Southern University in 1956 and from Boston University Law School in 1959. She passed the Bar Exams in Massachusetts and Texas before returning to Houston to open a law practice.
Active in the Kennedy-Johnson presidential campaign of 1960, Jordan wanted to be a part of the change. She unsuccessfully ran 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. Reelected to a full term in the Texas Senate in 1968, she served until 1972.
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 received extensive support from President Lyndon Johnson, who helped her secure a position on the House Judiciary Committee.
After winning reelection, in 1974, she made an influential televised speech before the House Judiciary Committee supporting the impeachment of President Richard Nixon. Her legislative accomplishments include the renewal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and expansion of that act to cover language minorities. This extended protection to Hispanics in Texas which was opposed by Texas Governor Dolph Briscoe and Secretary of State Mark White. Her speech at the 1976 Democratic National Convention that is considered by many historians to have been the best convention keynote speech in modern history. She sponsored the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, legislation that required banks to lend and make services available to underserved poor and minority communities. Jordan retired from politics in 1979 and became a professor 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 and increased penalties on employers that violated US immigration regulations.
People tend to remember Barbara Jordan as a woman of extraordinary grace and courage. From her beginnings in the Fifth Ward, to the halls of the US Congress, she always served with a great deal of honor and dignity. And, let’s not forget the achievement of being elected to Congress. Not just as a black woman from Texas, but as the first black woman elected from any Southern state….anywhere….anytime.
Folks tend to say that Texas has a lot of racial/ethnic problems. And we most certainly do. But Texas voters also elected Jordan –first to the statehouse, and then to the Congress– at a time when no other voters in no other southern state had ever done such a thing. She was a proud, educated, and erudite Texan, through and through.
And if you like, and recall fondly, the memory of Barbara Jordan, then there’s one more thing you like about Texas.