She caught the interest of President Lyndon Johnson, who invited her to the White House to get a preview of his 1967 civil rights message. A groundbreaking African American politician, Barbara Jordan worked difficult to realize her dreams. She grew up in a poor black area in Houston, Texas. The daughter of a Baptist minister, Jordan was supported by her parents to strive for academic excellence. Her gift for language and building discussions was evident in high school, where she was an award winning debater and orator. She was among the few black students in this program. In the beginning, she worked from her parents’ house. In 1962, Jordan started her first bid for public office, seeking a position in the Texas legislature. It required two more attempts for her to make history.
In 1966, Jordan eventually won a seat in the Texas legislature, becoming the very first black woman to do this. She failed to get a warm welcome from her new co-workers initially, but she finally won some of these over. Jordan sought to enhance the lives of her constituents by helping usher through the state’s first law on minimum wage. She also worked to make the Texas Fair Employment Practices Commission. Jordan became the very first African American woman to hold this place. As an associate of the House Judiciary Committee, she was thrust into the national limelight throughout the Watergate scandal. Jordan stood as a moral compass in this time of disaster, calling for the impeachment of President Richard M. Nixon for his participation in this prohibited political venture.
At the 1976 Democratic National Convention, Jordan once again caught the people’s attention along with her keynote address. She told the crowd, “My existence here . . . is one additional little bit of evidence the American dream need not forever be deferred.” Jordan had apparently expected to procure the place of U.S. attorney general within Jimmy Carter’s government after he won the election, but Carter gave the place to someone else.
Declaring that she’d not seek reelection, Jordan finished up her final period in 1979. Some believed that she could have gone further in her political career, but it was later disclosed that Jordan were identified as having multiple sclerosis around now. She took some time to reflect on her life and political career, writing Barbara Jordan: A Self Portrait (1979). Jordan shortly turned her focus toward preparing future generations of politicians and public officials, taking a professorship in the University of Texas at Austin.
While her educational work was the focus of her later years, Jordan never completely stepped away from public life. The next year, Jordan once again took the national stage to give a speech in the Democratic National Convention. Her health had dropped via this point, and she needed to give her address from her wheelchair. However, Jordan discussed to summon her party using the same strong and sensible fashion she’d shown 16 years before. In 1994, President Bill Clinton named Jordan to head up the Commission on Immigration Reform. She passed away two years after, on January 17, 1996, in Austin, Texas. Jordan died of pneumonia, a complication of her battle with leukemia.
The country mourned the loss of a great leader who formed the political landscape along with her dedication to the Constitution, her devotion to ethics and her remarkable oratory abilities. “There was just something about her that made you proud to be an integral part of the nation that created her,” said former Texas governor Ann Richards in remembrance of her co-worker. President Clinton said, “Barbara constantly awakened our national conscience.”