LBJ School celebrates legacy, birthday of Barbara Jordan

Amy Thornton

The LBJ School of Public Affairs will celebrate the 75th birthday of one of its most well-known professors with a weeklong tribute to honor the life and work of Barbara Jordan.

The first black woman to serve in the Texas Legislature, Jordan led a life full of distinction both as a legislator and as an educator at the LBJ school, said Lauren Burton, one of the student organizers. Jordan’s career includes the speech she made during former President Richard Nixon’s impeachment hearings and the keynote address at the 1976 Democratic National Convention.

“She’s an inspirational figure,” said Burton, a public affairs graduate student. “To be able to speak about ethics and integrity during times like Watergate and be a friend, mentor and champion of education — that resonates with people.”

Burton and a group of about 10 students have worked since last summer to make the traditionally daylong celebration of Jordan’s work into a full week. One of the group’s goals this year was to make students feel like they had more participation by involving numerous student organizations in the LBJ school, Burton said.

The students also wanted to make sure they had a community service portion of the week, which they accomplished by creating a fundraiser to purchase Barbara Jordan biographies for the 50 classrooms of Barbara Jordan Elementary School in Austin. The students launched the fundraiser last week and hope to raise $1,000 by the end of the tribute.

Each day of the tribute week will include discussions on topics such as racial inequality, women in public policy, disability policy and juvenile justice.

The keynote speaker for the kick-off luncheon Monday is Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, an LBJ school alumnus who now occupies Jordan’s Senate seat.

“Barbara Jordan had a huge impact on the course of Texas and American history,” Ellis said. “She was a pioneer and a living example of what was possible in America. She worked hard on policies to expand access to the American dream through expanded access to housing, credit, education and the political process.”

Barbara Jordan student fellow Victoria Lippman helped organize one of the panel discussions for Thursday. The award selects students who embody characteristics consistent with Jordan’s legacy.

“I felt so proud to become a Fellow because I’ve always looked up to her, and she has played a big role in my life,” Lippman said. “When I was younger, I remember her speaking and marveling at how eloquent she was and how her voice commanded so much attention. She embodies the ideals of equality and ethics in policy.”