Barbara Jordan

Black and white head and shoulders portrait of Barbara Jordan
Barbara Jordan poses for an official U.S. House of Representatives photo.

U.S. House of Representatives

Quick Facts
First African American woman elected to U.S. Congress from a southern state.
Place of Birth:
Houston, TX
Date of Birth:
February 21, 1936
Place of Death:
Austin, TX
Date of Death:
January 17, 1996
Place of Burial:
Austin, TX
Cemetery Name:
Texas State Cemetery

Barbara Charline Jordan was the third daughter born to a Baptist preacher in the greater Fifth Ward area of Houston, Texas. Jordan grew up in a religious and supportive family where she was encouraged to pursue her dreams. Early on in her academic career she grew a fond appreciation for public speech and debate. Jordan not only developed a skill for political debate and practicing law, but also developed the skill to teach the discipline as well. She graduated from the prestigious historically black Texas Southern University and in 1959, was hired to teach Political Science at the Tuskegee Institute, now the private historically black Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama.

Jordan eventually entered into private law practice but was compelled to advocate for justice on a broader scale. After a successful campaign, she became the first African American elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction in 1966 and served until 1972. She also became the first African American woman elected to the United States House of Representatives from the South where she served from 1973 to 1979. Additionally, she became the first black female to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 1976.

Over her lifetime, Jordan became a recipient of several honors and recognitions, but one of the greatest of many came when she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 by the 42nd president of the United States of America, Bill Clinton. Jordan is best remembered for her riveting remarks to the house Judiciary Committee during the impeachment hearings against the 37th president of the United States, Richard Nixon. The remarks she offered amplified American political oratory.

Barbara Jordan met with untimely ailing and was the first African American woman to be buried in the Texas Senate Cemetery. The Barbara Jordan-Mikey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University is named in her honor. The Barbara Jordan Freedom Foundation was established in 2010 and is dedicated to continuing her legacy in securing truth, justice and rights for all people.

Last updated: August 3, 2020