America Guillen headshot
America Guillen

Barbara Jordan: A tribute

Updated: Apr 23, 2024

Barbara Jordan headshot

Barbara Jordan was the first Black person elected to the Texas Senate in 1966. She was also the first Black Texan to serve in the United States Congress. Today, we write a tribute for Barbara Jordan as a trailblazer in Texas politics.

Barbara was born on February 21, 1936 in Houston, Texas. Her early life consisted of work and school. After she graduated from Phyllis Wheatley High School, she attended and graduated from Texas Southern University in 1956. After that, she received her Juris Doctor from Boston University. From there, she entered the field of law.

Her interest in politics grew after she joined John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign as a volunteer in 1960. Politics was something that she had always had an interest in but never an outward aspiration to run for office. However, she eventually decided to run for office—particularly a seat in the Texas House of Representatives. The first two times she ran for a Texas House seat, she lost. That did not stop her from pursuing public office. In 1966, she shifted gears and decided to run for Texas Senate. At last, Barbara won. This was ana amazing accomplishment for communities of color, especially women of color. She became the first Black person elected to the Texas Senate. She did not stop there.

In 1971, Barbara ran to represent Texas in the United States Congress. She ran against Republican Paul Merritt. Barbara ended up winning the seat with 81% of the majority vote. She then became the first Black Texan and one of the first Black folks from the South in U.S. Congress. While in Congress, she pushed her colleagues to protect the civil rights of Americans all over the country. She wanted to give back to the community that supported her. She won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 from Bill Clinton.

Barbara died in Austin, Texas on January 17, 1996. She is buried in the state’s capitol. She left behind a legacy that, to this day, inspires young women of color to run for office.

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