Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Voting Rights Act of 1975: 40 Years Later

Jordan and Ford, signing of
the Voting Rights Act, 
August 6, 1975

On this date in 1975, President Gerald Ford signed the Reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act. Barbara Jordan was heavily involved that reauthorization process, because one of the core issues surrounding voters at the polls was the discrimination of non-English speaking voters that was happening in Texas.  The story of Jordan's involvement is complicated but fascinating, and Jordan always cited the passage of this Act as one of her career highlights.  Learn more about the Act at the links below:

Monday, June 8, 2015

Governor For a Day - 43 Years On

June 10, 2015 marks 43 years since Barbara Jordan received the honor of Governor For a Day in the state of Texas.  And to date, she is still the only African American woman to hold the title of Governor of state, even if it was for just one day.

In 1972, having served three terms in the Texas Senate, Jordan was elected president pro tempore (a Latin phrase meaning “for the time being”) of the Senate.  The president pro tempore is legally third in succession to the governor’s office, so what this meant was that Jordan was the first African American woman to preside over a legislative body in the United States and the first African American ever to preside over the Texas Legislature.  To make it official, Governor Preston Smith and Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes both made arrangements to be out of the state for Jordan’s historic date, June 10, 1972.

The ceremony took place at the state Capitol in Austin.  Jordan, sworn in by her former TSU classmate Judge Andrew Jefferson, was surrounded by her family and friends.  Colleagues and well-wishers from all over Texas, including Delta Sigma Theta sorority sisters, bands, and choirs all came to celebrate Jordan’s historic moment.  One of Jordan’s official acts as Governor was to designate September 1972 as Sickle Cell Disease Control Month.

Jordan stated:  “I want you to celebrate this day as a new day of new commitment when a new idea and a new sense of future is to be born in Texas, a new commitment that Texas will not tolerate different based on race, a day when Texas will fight injustice and inequality whenever it finds it. “  Jordan’s triumph, however, was marked with tragedy.  Shortly after Jordan was sworn in, her father, Benjamin Jordan, suffered a stroke and was rushed to a local hospital where he died the next day.  Jordan later remembered the last time she spoke to her father: “I walked into the room and there he was with all his teeth showing.  Just the most wonderful smile imaginable…I said, ‘Chief, you almost made the day…but you got to see me be governor.’  And he was still grinning.”

To see a slide show of the day's events and to hear Jordan's speeches, watch the video link below.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Graduation Day

High school diploma, Phillis Wheatley, 1952.
As we celebrate another term's end at Texas Southern University and graduation is upon us, we also think of Jordan and her academic achievements.  The Houston-born and -educated Jordan (at least until law school) was the recipient of over 30 honorary doctorates, the first given to her when she was only 10 years out of law school.  Jordan's family stressed the importance of an education to Barbara, and she in turn stressed that importance to her own post-Congressional classrooms at UT-Austin decades later.

Happy graduation day to our students at Texas Southern University and beyond!

Texas Southern University, 1956.
Boston University College of Law, 1959. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Happy Birthday, Ms. Jordan - 79 years

Jordan at Bob Hope's birthday party, 1978.
February 21 marks the 79th birthday of Ms. Jordan.  In honor of the occasion, here's some not-often seen and candid shots of Jordan enjoying herself.  We often think of the public face of Jordan and her serious demeanor and no-nonsense presence.  But she was also a woman who also loved to laugh, had a great sense of humor and was adored by those who knew her intimately. 

Jordan at an event, occasion unknown, ca. 1973-74.
Rep. Barbara Holtzman (who served with Jordan in the
Watergate Hearings) is on the far left. 
Jordan, partner Nancy Earl and unknown student, at Jordan's
Onion Creek home in Austin, ca. 1982.  Jordan and Earl
often threw end-of-semester parties for Jordan's students.

Jordan with unknown student at Jordan's Onion Creek home,
ca. 1981.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

National Prayer Breakfast

Front of souvenir program.

Today marks the 62nd National Prayer Breakfast.  The National Prayer Breakfast (which is really a series of meetings, luncheons, and dinners) is a yearly event held in Washington, D.C., on the first Thursday of February each year, and has taken place since 1953.  Barbara Jordan had the honor of leading the prayer in 1978.  Here are some artifacts from her appearance. 

Jordan's itinerary for the event. 

Interior of souvenir program, from Jordan's collection.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Greetings, Congressional Style

Peter Rodino (D-New Jersey) – Rodino 
was the chair of the House Judiciary 
Committee when Jordan served during
the Watergate Hearings.

Happy holidays from the Barbara Jordan Archives and Special Collections!  As this year draws to a close, we're reflecting on a tumultuous year in politics with a lot of division among party lines.  In Jordan's time, though, things weren't as divided.  There was more "across-the-aisle" camaraderie and socializing regardless of party affiliation.  It might be argued that this spirit of such a time in American politics is reflected in a sampling of Jordan's greeting cards from colleagues during the 1978 holiday season; of the twenty-five cards featured here, one-third are from Jordan's Republican congress-mates. 

From a more aesthetic viewpoint, it’s interesting to consider the card designs and styles:  many feature traditional family photos and husband/wife poses, while others feature a depiction of Capitol Hill or the seal of the House.  The fashions, the hairstyles, decor...all depict an American era gone by and allow for a step back in time.  (Notice, too, the duplication of a card or two; most holiday cards were, and are, printed in-house and made available to House and Senate members.)  Regardless of who sent the cards, though, the themes of family and America prevail, and regardless of the issues at hand and the battles waged between political opponents, holiday greetings were still exchanged.  We hope you enjoy looking though the selection, and have a great holiday!

John Rhodes (R-Arizona)
Robert McClory (R-Illinois)


Berkley Bedell (D-Iowa)


Charles H. Wilson (D-California)

Charlie Wilson (D-Texas) – Wilson was
a long-time personal friend of Jordan’s and 
the two often socialized outside of work.

Paul Simon (D-Illinois)

Elizabeth Holtzman (D-NY)  
Holtzman was the only other woman
than Jordan to serve on the Watergate
Committee for the House.

Gillis Long (D-Louisiana)

George Hansen (R-Idaho)
Walter Fauntroy (D-Washington DC)

James Corman (D-California)
Edward Jenkins (D-Georgia)

Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio)

Henry Waxman (D-California)

John Brademus (D-Indiana)
Senator Tennyson Guyer (R-Ohio)
Shirley Pettis (R-California)
Tom Corcoran (R-Illinois)
Senator Spark Matsunaga (D-Hawaii)
Abraham "Chick" Kazen, Jr. (D-Texas)

Jim Collins (R-Texas)

John Murphy (D-New York)
John Culver (D-Iowa)

Friday, July 25, 2014

On this date: Jordan and the Watergate Impeachment Hearings

July 25, 2014 marks the 40th anniversary of Jordan's historic statement on the impeachment of President Richard Nixon.  Jordan, then a freshman member of Congress and barely in office a few months, was given the unenviable task as a member of the Judiciary Committee to determine if there was evidence that the President had committed crimes that were considered impeachable offenses under the Constitution.

The Watergate Hearings held the country in its grip for months, dividing public opinion and shaking the confidence of Americans in their leaders and system of justice.  At the end of it all, America had a President leave office in disgrace, but for Jordan it was really the dawning of her career as a national politician.   In about 10 minutes, Jordan captured the attention and imagination of a country and provided a mini-civics lesson that has never quite been forgotten.  The statement she delivered is still considered today as one of the top 100 American speeches of all time by American Rhetoric. Please click here to view a virtual exhibit about Jordan's role in the Watergate Impeachment Hearings.