Our proud link to Barbara Jordan

1688798_10202444331781180_10221325_nBy Diane Holloway
Communications/Volunteer Coordinator

Every year people ask (or silently wonder) why our fundraising gala is named after Barbara Jordan. What is Trinity Center’s connection to the late Texas public servant and University of Texas law professor? Newcomers and non-Texans may also wonder who she was and why her statue graces Austin’s airport.

Ms. Jordan, who died in 1996 and would have turned 80 this year, was a pioneer in American politics, known for her passion for civil rights, compassion for the downtrodden, commanding intellect and breathtaking eloquence. She pronounced every syllable of every spoken word and, as the New York Times obituary proclaimed, had “a voice that stirred a nation” as a member of the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate impeachment hearings.

Born in Houston, Ms. Jordan was a tireless crusader for the poor throughout her life — in public and in private. When she died, her will designated a significant portion of her estate to help people experiencing homelessness, and Trinity Center, in its planning stages, became the lucky beneficiary. Besides naming our fundraising event after her, we also named the main room of the center The Barbara Jordan Hall. A plaque over the executive director’s office bears the following quotation: “Define what is right and do it!”

Optimistic and determined, Ms. Jordan experienced two failed attempts before being elected as the first black state Senator in Texas in 1966. She went on to be the first woman and first black person elected to Congress from Texas after Reconstruction. She served from 1972 to 1979, most famously on the Judiciary Committee that oversaw the Watergate hearings. Her concern at that historic juncture was less about the partisan scandal than what she saw as an assault on her beloved Constitution. Described by many on both sides of the aisle as the “moral compass” of the proceedings, her speeches were mesmerizing and powerful.
Jordan“I felt somehow for many years that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton just left me out by mistake,” she declared in her booming voice during one session. “But through the process of amendment, interpretation and court decision I have finally been included in ‘We, the people.’ My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total, and I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution.”
After retiring from Congress and leaving Washington, Ms. Jordan came home to Texas to teach political ethics at UT’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. About the same time, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis but kept mentoring future generations. She was later also diagnosed with leukemia and died at the age of 59. She is buried in the Texas State Cemetery — the first African-American woman afforded that honor. In big letters, her tombstone reads “Patriot” above the smaller lettering of her name.
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“There was simply something about her that made you proud to be a part of the country that produced her,” said former Texas Governor Ann Richards at the funeral attended by dignitaries from both political parties.
 Does this help explain who the Hon. Barbara Jordan was and how Trinity Center is very proudly connected to her? We hope so, and we hope her legacy of care and compassion continues with the work we do for our beloved neighbors in her honor.
[Click here to purchase tickets to The Barbara Jordan Celebration, April 26, 5:30-7:30 p.m.]