Barbara Jordan’s career and life were full of firsts. She was the first African-American woman elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction, the first southern black female elected to the United States House of Representatives, and the first African-American woman to deliver the Democratic National Convention keynote address. She was also the first black woman to be laid to rest in the Texas State Cemetery. She dedicated her life to fighting for black people’s rights as an active politician and Civil Rights Movement leader. Jordan has always been influential and diligent, striving for perfection since he was a child. She has had a penchant for debating and oratorical talents since high school. She quickly became involved in politics, carving out a space for herself and eventually becoming a member of the US House of Representatives.
Childhood and Adolescence
Barbara Charline Jordan was born in Houston, Texas, to Benjamin and Arlyne Jordan. His mother worked as a domestic helper while his father was a black Baptist clergyman.
She received her official education from Roberson Elementary School and then went on to Phillis Wheatley High School, where she excelled academically.
When she earned a debate award in high school, her knack for words and creating arguments was recognized.
She considered becoming a lawyer after being inspired by Edith S Sampson’s speech. She majored in political science and history at Texas Southern University.
She became a national champion debater at the university, crushing all of her opponents from prominent universities such as Yale and Brown. She enrolled in the Boston University School of Law after graduating with a magna cum laude in 1956. She earned her law degree three years later.
Barbara Jordan’s Career
She began her career as a political science teacher at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute. She stayed in the profile for a year before returning to Houston in 1960 to pass the bar and open her own law firm.
She got involved in politics soon after, campaigning for Democratic presidential candidates John F Kennedy and Lyndon B Johnson. This aided her in breaking into the public eye.
She ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the Texas House of Representatives in 1962. She ran for office again in 1964, but was unsuccessful. Her perseverance paid off in 1966 when she was elected to the Texas Senate, making her the first African-American state senator since 1883 and the first black woman to hold the position.
During her time as a senator, she worked hard to raise people’s living standards bypassing the state’s first minimum wage law. Her outstanding work earned her re-election for a full second term, from 1968 to 1972.
She made history again in 1972 when she was elected as the first African-American female president pro tem of the state senate. As a result, on June 10, 1972, she served as Texas’ acting governor.
Her career reached another milestone the following year when she was elected to the US House of Representatives. She was the first woman elected to the House of Representatives from Texas.
She was appointed to the House Judiciary Committee with President Lyndon B. Johnson’s backing. During the Watergate scandal, she became a national figure.
In an influential television speech in 1974, she called for President Richard Nixon’s impeachment for his illegal political activities. She refused to participate in the Nixon administration’s demolition of the Constitution.
Carl Albert, the then-Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, appointed her to the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee the following year.
She was mentioned as a possible running mate for Jimmy Carter at the Democratic National Convention in 1976. She made history by becoming the first African-American woman to deliver the keynote presentation at the convention.
Her keynote speech was considerably more memorable than the fact that she was the first African-American woman to deliver it. The address was ranked fifth among the Top 100 American Speeches of the twentieth century. Furthermore, some historians have deemed it the greatest convention keynote address ever given.
Despite being the greatest contender for the office of US Attorney General during Jimmy Carter’s presidency, the position was later offered to someone else.
After three stints in Congress, she stepped down from active politics in 1979. She later became an adjunct professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B Johnson School of Public Affairs, where she taught future generations of politicians and public officials.
In the same year, she published ‘Barbara Jordan: A Self Portrait,’ a work that became a landmark of her political career and life. She was appointed to the Lyndon B. Johnson Centennial Chair of Public Policy in 1982.
While she continued to work as an academic, she never totally abandoned public life and instead made public appearances. She worked for Texas Governor Ann Richards as a special counsel on ethics in 1991. She gave her second keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention the following year.
She chaired the US Commission on Immigration Reform from 1994 to 1996, voting in favor of tighter immigration restrictions. She was adamantly opposed to offering citizenship to illegal immigrants in the name of national security. She also enhanced the penalties for employers who break immigration laws in the United States.
Achievements and Awards
She received various prizes throughout her life, including the Spingarn Medal, Elizabeth Blackwell Award, and the Sylvanus Thayer Award from the United States Military Academy, among others.
She received the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994.
She was honored in the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame as well as the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Personal History and Legacy
In the 1970s, her health began to deteriorate. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1973, which severely limited her physical mobility. She struggled to climb stairs and eventually had to use a wheelchair to get around.
Her condition continued to deteriorate, and she eventually developed leukemia. On January 17, 1996, she passed away from pneumonia complications.
Several schools, colleges, airports, and parks have been named after her following her death. Barbara Jordan Health Policy Scholars awarded her a fellowship as well.
Her life was depicted in the Victory Garden Theatre in Chicago, Illinois, in the play “Voice of Good Hope.”
Estimated net worth
Barbara Jordan is one of the wealthiest politicians and one of the most popular. Barbara Jordan’s net worth is estimated to be $34 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.
She was the first African-American woman elected to the House of Representatives in the United States.