Legislators plan to honor Barbara Jordan

Allie Kolechta

To honor a former UT professor, congresswoman and state senator, the Texas Legislature will pass a resolution today to commemorate the birthday of Barbara Jordan.

Monday marked the 75th birthday of Jordan, former Texas senator and professor in the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Jordan was the first African-American woman to join the state senate and was later elected to the United States Congress, before teaching in the School of Public Affairs. She died in 1996.

Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, will present a House resolution to the Senate that will be passed today in honor of Jordan’s birthday, while Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, will present it to the House, said Laura Langham, a staff attorney and researcher with the Texas Senate. Lawmakers have invited 100 fifth graders from Barbara Jordan Elementary School to watch the resolution pass in the House and the Senate, Langham said.

“Besides the fact that she was an outstanding woman, it seems appropriate to honor her birthday because of all that she accomplished in the Senate,” she said. “It’s important to embody her values as a senator and to
celebrate her.”

The resolution is part of a weeklong symposium co-sponsored by the Legislature and LBJ School to celebrate the life of Barbara Jordan.

Ellis spoke to a crowd of 130 in the LBJ School about Jordan’s legacy. It’s especially important to celebrate her legacy and impact on UT and the School of Public Affairs so that future students can accomplish what she could not, Ellis said.

“Of all of the accolades on her resume to have put on her headstone in the state cemetery, the one that stands out in the boldest print is teacher,“ he said. “Maybe that’s because at the end of the day, the most significant gift that any of us can give to future generations is being a teacher.”

Tiffany O’Neal, a graduate student in the LBJ School and one of the student organizers, said she wanted to get as many student groups involved as possible.

“Every student group we contacted jumped on board,” she said.

Student groups involved with the symposium include Public Alliance for Communities of Color, the Green Society, the Center for Health and Social Policy and Social, Health, and Economic Policymakers. Issues that Jordan fought on behalf of, including environmental justice, juvenile justice and education, are still on the forefront of issues dealt with by students in the School of Public Affairs, O’Neal said.

“The one thing I knew about the LBJ School was that Barbara Jordan taught here, and that’s why I decided to come,” she said. “We all need to keep alive her legacy, her spirit and her passion for social justice.”