Today’s Wayback Wednesday honors the birthday of Barbara Jordan. Born on February 21, 1936 in Houston’s Fifth Ward, Jordan went on to become the first African-American woman to serve in the Texas Senate, the first woman to represent Texas in the House of Representatives and was nearly nominated to the United States Supreme Court by then-President Bill Clinton before her death in 1996.
Below you can listen to KUT’s award-winning hour-long documentary on Jordan’s life and legacy, “Rediscovering Barbara Jordan,” which was produced in association with Public Radio International. Above, you can view photos from her life and the exhibit at the Capitol honoring her legislative career.
After two terms in the Texas Senate, Jordan was elected to the House of Representatives in 1972. In 1974, she vaulted into the national spotlight while serving as a member of the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate hearings, delivering a now-iconic speech (which you can watch below) ahead of Nixon’s eventual resignation two weeks later.
After her time in Congress, she became the first African-American woman to deliver the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention — a speech that was ranked among the top five speeches of the 20th century by rhetorical scholars in 1999.
Upon leaving Congress in 1976, Jordan began teaching at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at UT-Austin for the remainder of her life until her death in 1996.