Friday, December 18, 2009
Visitors waiting for their luggage on the bottom floor of the passenger terminal of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport will see a bronze statue of a person after whom the terminal is named. That person is Barbara Jordan.
Barbara Jordan was born in Houston, Texas, the daughter of a Baptist minister. Excelling in school studies and debate while growing up, she attended Texas Southern University, and later the law school at Boston University. Upon returning to Texas, she opened up a law practice in Houston.
Jordan became involved in politics soon after her return to Texas. An active volunteer in support of the Kennedy-Johnson ticket during the 1960 election, she went on to run for a seat in the Texas House of Representatives in both 1962 and 1964. While she lost both times, she did not give up, and finally gained a seat in the Texas Senate, representing the area around her native Houston. The election victory was viewed as historic at the time, given that she was both an African-American and a woman.
During her years working as a state senator in Austin, she impressed her colleagues with her hard work and dedication to the causes in which she believed. After her successful career as a state senator, she ran for the United States House of Representatives in 1972, and was elected. It was during her tenure in Washington that she first came to national prominence.
Tirelessly supporting legislation designed to help the poor and disenfranchised, Jordan became an important voice in the impeachment proceedings of Richard Nixon. Despite her important impact in Washington, her health began to decline, and so she chose to return to Texas in the late 1970’s.
Jordan’s political career had a positive impact in both Texas, and the United States as a whole. As an African-American, and a woman, she was elected to political bodies, which at the time, had few representatives of either.
Jordan’s relationship with Austin began when she first served as a state senator, and this relationship was renewed upon her return to her home state, when she started teaching at the University of Texas. Upon her life’s passing, in 1996, she was buried in the exclusive Texas State Cemetery in Austin, and honor reserved only for those who have made important contributions to the State of Texas.