Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Jordan was born in Houston, Texas's Fifth Ward. She graduated magna cum laude from Texas Southern University in 1956 and from Boston University Law School in 1959. She passed the Bar Exams in Massachusetts and Texas before returning to Houston to open a law practice.
Active in the Kennedy-Johnson presidential campaign of 1960, Jordan wanted to be a part of the change. She unsuccessfully ran for the Texas House of Representatives in 1962 and 1964. Her persistence won her a seat in the Texas Senate in 1966, becoming the first African American state senator since 1883 and the first black woman to serve in that body. Reelected to a full term in the Texas Senate in 1968, she served until 1972, when she made a successful bid to represent Texas's Eighteenth Congressional District in the U.S. House, becoming the first black woman from a Southern state to serve in the House. She was reelected in 1974 and 1976. She received extensive support from President Lyndon Johnson, who helped her secure plum positions on the House Judiciary and Ways and Means Committees.
In 1973, Jordan began to suffer from multiple sclerosis which eventually confined her to a wheelchair. In 1974, she made a well-known speech before the House Judiciary Committee supporting the impeachment of President Richard Nixon. She gave a speech at the 1976 Democratic National Convention that is considered by many historians to have been the best convention keynote speech in modern history. Because of her illness, Jordan retired from politics in 1979 and became a professor at the University of Texas at Austin Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. She again was a keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention in 1992.
Jordan kept her health and her private life out of the press. Nancy Earl, her life partner for over twenty years, was her caregiver during her final illness and executor of her estate.
Jordan was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994. It was only one of many honors given her, including election into both the Texas and National Women's Hall of Fame. She was buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin where she was the first black woman to be there.
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