Barbara Jordan

Barbara Jordan

Quick Facts on Barbara Jordan

  • Born Feb. 21, 1936, in Houston’s Fifth Ward to Benjamin and Arlyne Jordan.
  • Graduates from Houston’s Phyllis Wheatley High School in 1952 in the top 5 percent of her class; while in high school wins a national oration contest; goes on to win a national debate championship in college.
  • Graduates magna cum laude from Texas Southern University in 1956.
  • Earns a law degree from Boston University in 1959. Practices law from her parents’ house for three years before she has enough money to open a law office.
  • First becomes involved in politics by registering voters for the 1960 presidential election.
  • Elected to the Texas Senate in 1966, becoming the first black woman elected to the Texas Senate and Texas’ first black senator since 1883.
  • Serves as a congresswoman in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1973 to 1979.
  • Gains national prominence in 1974 for speaking out in favor of impeaching President Nixon.
  • During her terms in state Senate and in Congress becomes known for championing minorities, the poor, and the disadvantaged.
  • Delivers the keynote address at the 1976 Democratic National Convention, becoming the first woman and the first black person to do so; serves again as convention keynote speaker in 1992.
  • Becomes adjunct professor at The University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs in 1979, which she continues until her death. Teaches intergovernmental relations, political values, and ethics; her seminars become some of the most sought-after graduate classes on campus.
  • The International Platform Association names her “Best Living Orator” in 1984.
  • Serves as ethics advisor to Texas Gov. Ann Richards from 1991-94.
  • Inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame, the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and the African-American Hall of Fame in 1984, 1990, and 1993. The National Women’s Hall of Fame names her “One of the Most Influential Women of the 20th Century,” and the World Almanac names her “One of the 25 Most Influential Women in America” for 12 consecutive years.
  • Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994.
  • Awarded the U.S. Military Academy's Sylvanus Thayer Award in 1995, becoming only the second woman to do so.
  • Dies of complications from pneumonia on Jan. 17, 1996, in Austin.
  • A bronze statue of Jordan is unveiled April 24, 2009, on the UT Austin campus near the Battle Oaks; Jordan becomes the first female public figured to be honored in this way.