Barbara Jordan: Congresswoman for the People

“If the impeachment provision in the Constitution of the United States will not reach the offenses charged here, then perhaps that eighteenth century Constitution should be abandoned to a twentieth century paper shredder.”

Born February 21, 1936 in the 5th Ward of Houston, Texas, Barbara Charline Jordan was the youngest of three siblings. After graduating high school, she attended Texas Southern University, then went on to attain her law degree from Boston University. She began her first job working for a county judge as an administrative assistant, then worked for JFK’s presidential campaign that same year. Her first political career move was running for the Texas House of Representatives, but lost the race in both 1962 and 1964. In 1966, she ran for Texas Senate and won, becoming the first ever Black woman elected to that office. She was also the first Black senator since 1883. Lyndon B. Johnson was a close advisor of hers.


In the late 1960’s, Jordan met Nancy Earl, an educational psychologist. Earl occasionally wrote speeches for Jordan, but became her caretaker when Barbara developed multiple sclerosis later in life. Their relationship was speculated but neither Jordan nor Earl ever addressed it.


Barbara went on to become a Judiciary Committee member. In the face of the Watergate scandal, she gave the opening statement of the impeachment hearing of President Richard Nixon. She said, “My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total. I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution.” She also addressed the fact that the Constitution did not include the rights of Black Americans when it was originally written. This fact could not be more relevant today, as we continue to see loopholes formed and atrocities committed under the protection of our outdated Constitution.


She was inducted into both Texas Women’s Hall of Fame and National Women’s Hall of Fame. She won the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP as well as the 1994 Presidential Medal of Freedom.


On January 17, 1996, Barbara passed away in Houston, Texas from pneumonia as a complication of Leukemia.


Barbara’s faith in the Constitution was whole, but we must continue to ensure that faith can be held by ALL Black Americans. We cannot ensure faith in the Constitution until it protects every citizen- specifically Black citizens. Something tells me Barbara would agree; we cannot sit here and be idle spectators to the diminution, subversion, and destruction of Black existence.


References include National Women’s History Museum, History.com, AmericanRhetoric.com


By Josie Thompson




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