Texas Originals

Barbara Jordan

February 21, 1936–January 17, 1996

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 Jordan 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.

For More about Barbara Jordan

AmericanRhetoric.com offers a video recording of Jordan's "1976 Democratic National Convention Keynote Address" given in New York, New York, on July 12, 1976, and an audio version of Jordan's "Statement on the Articles of Impeachment" to the House Judiciary Committee on July 25, 1974.

The Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs offers a transcript and audio of Barbara Jordan's Landmark Speech to the 1976 Democratic National Convention.

The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum created oral history interviews with Barbara Jordan; transcripts are available online.

Jordan's alma mater, Texas Southern University in Houston, houses her papers in the Robert J. Terry Library's Special Collections.

Texas Southern University offers a virtual exhibition for download based on materials from its Barbara Jordan Archives.

Selected Bibliography

"Barbara Charline Jordan." In Black Americans in Congress, 1870–2007. Prepared under the direction of the Committee on House Administration by the Office of History & Preservation, U. S. House of Representatives. Washington: Government Printing Office, 2008.

Barnes, Ben, with Lisa Dickey. Barn Burning, Barn Building: Tales of a Political Life. Albany, TX: Bright Sky Press, 2006.

Curtin, Mary Ellen. "Reaching for Power: Barbara C. Jordan and Liberals in the Texas Legislature, 1966-1972." The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 108, No. 2 (October 2004): 210–231.

Fenno, Richard. Going Home: Black Representatives and Their Constituents. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.

"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, and Shelby Hearon. Barbara Jordan: A Self Portrait. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1979.

Odintz, Mark. "Jordan, Barbara Charline." Handbook of Texas Online.

Rogers, Mary Beth. Barbara Jordan: American Hero. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999.

Listen to the audio

Barbara Jordan during a Family Circle magazine interview, October 18, 1976. LBJ Library photo by Frank Wolfe.
Meeting with civil rights leaders, February 13, 1967. From left to right: Andy Biemillier (Legislative Director, AFL-CIO), Texas State Senator Barbara Jordan, John Doar (Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice). LBJ Library photo by Yoichi Okamoto.
From left to right: Barbara Jordan, Vernon Jordan, and President Lyndon B. Johnson, December 12, 1972. LBJ Library photo by Frank Wolfe.