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.