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Black History Month: Barbara Jordan Paved the Way for African-American Leaders

HOUSTON -- Barbara Jordan's name is connected to a lot of firsts.

"When an African American woman is the first at anything, how challenging and how courageous that person must be. Because whenever they enter a room, they are not seeing anyone who looks like them, " said Sandaria Faye, a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Arts and Humanities at UT Dallas, and author of Mourner's Bench.

In 1966, she became the first African-American woman in the Texas Senate and the first black state senator in the U.S. since 1883.

As president pro tem of the state senate, she was the first African-American woman in the country to preside over a legislative body and even served as acting governor of Texas, if only for a hot minute, when the governor and lieutenant governor were out of state for the day.

She left Austin for Washington in 1973, becoming the first African-American in history to represent Texas in Congress.

She spoke what may have been the most memorable speech during Richard Nixon's impeachment hearing in 1974.

"My faith in the constitution is whole. It is complete. It is total," Jordan said."

"You had to be bold. You had to be courageous," Faye said. "By the time she got to Watergate, it was only common for her to stand up for what was right."

Jordan died in 1996 with one more first to come: in 2011, she became the first African-American Congresswoman to appear on a U.S. postage stamp.

A bit ironic, since the Barbara Jordan main post office in downtown Houston closed 4 years later.

But her name is still prominent, especially in Houston, adorning the Barbara Jordan High School for Careers.

How appropriate to put her name on a place of learning considering all she taught us* about our government.

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