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Texas Originals

Barbara Jordan

The first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Congress from the South, the first woman to deliver a keynote address to the Democratic National Convention, and the first African-American woman to be buried in the Texas State Cemetery.


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Barbara Jordan

In July 1974, as the Watergate hearings took place, one voice stood out expressing faith in American ideals.  That voice — deep, measured, and unmistakable — belonged to Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan.   “My faith in the Constitution is whole,” Jordan declared, “it is complete, it is total.  And I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution.”  Jordan’s words electrified Congress and a national televised audience, and helped bring about President Nixon’s resignation.

Jordan was born in Houston’s Fifth Ward in 1936, and attended segregated schools until she enrolled at Boston University Law School.  

In 1966, Barbara Jordon began her historic political career when she became the first African-American woman elected to the Texas Senate.  Six years later, she won election to the U.S. House of Representatives becoming the first African-American woman from a southern state to serve in the body. 

Jordan mastered the art of political compromise, but never wavered in her commitment to the Constitution.  

In 1979, Jordan retired from elective office to begin a teaching career, after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  When she died, in 1996, her burial in the Texas State Cemetery marked yet another first: she was the first black woman interred there. 

Barbara Jordan
Barbara Jordan as member of the U.S. House of Representatives (D-Texas).


Selected Bibliography

Barnes, Ben, with Lisa Dickey. Barn Burning, Barn Building: Tales of a Political Life. Albany, Texas: Bright Sky Press, 2006.
“The First and Only.” Transcript, News Hour with Jim Lehrer. January 17, 1996.
Jordan, Barbara. Barbara Jordan: Speaking the Truth with Eloquent Thunder. Edited by Max Sherman. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2007.
Jordan, Barbara. “Statement on the Articles of Impeachment.” American Rhetoric.
Jordan, Barbara, and Shelby Hearon. Barbara Jordan: A Self Portrait. New York: Doubleday, 1979.
Odintz, Mark. “Jordan, Barbara Charline.” Handbook of Texas Online.


From Creative Commons and Texas Government websites.

This “Texas Originals” first aired on February 4, 2012.