As the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the deep South, Barbara Jordan faced adversity on her road to success, but she did not let society’s limits define her. Born on February 21, 1936, Jordan grew up in the Fifth Ward of Houston while segregation still gripped the state. Her father, Benjamin, was a Baptist minister and raised Jordan and her two sisters with strong moral values. But it was Jordan’s maternal grandfather, John Ed Patten, who shaped her characteristic traits of confidence and perseverance.
With her passing in 1996, Barbara Jordan became the first African American to be buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, an honor for which she advocated for African Americans while in the Texas State Senate. Her grave rests behind that of Stephen F. Austin. Call 512/463-0605.
Barbara Jordan’s booming voice and unparalleled oratorical skills cemented her place among the great speakers of our history. Known for her inspiring words, Jordan spoke for commencements, conferences, keynote addresses, and news articles. Here are a few of our favorite quotes from the former state Senator.