Barbara Jordan

February 1, 2011

Very Important People

Barbara Jordan (Feb. 21, 1936 – Jan. 17, 1996)

“One thing is clear to me: We, as human beings, must be willing to accept people who are different from ourselves.”

Barbara Jordan made history when she was elected to the newly drawn Texas Senate seat in 1966, thereby becoming the first Black to serve in that body since 1883. She was an oddity at that time, as the first Black woman in that state’s legislature.

Her brief record in the Texas State Senate is viewed as somewhat of a phenomenon. On March 21, 1967 she became the first Black elected official to preside over that body; she was the first Black state senator to chair a major committee, Labor and Management Relations, and the first freshman senator ever named to the Texas Legislative Council.

She decided to run for Congress and was elected, in Nov. 1972, from the newly drawn Eighteenth Congressional District in Houston. Both as a state senator and as a U.S. Congressman, Jordan sponsored bills that championed the cause of poor, Black, and disadvantaged people. One of the most important bills as senator was the Workman’s Compensation Act, which increased the maximum benefits paid to injured workers. As a congresswoman, she sponsored legislation to broaden the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to cover Mexican Americans in Texas and other southwestern states and to extend its authority to those states where minorities had been denied the right to vote or had had their rights restricted by unfair registration practices, such as literacy tests.

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