BARBARA JORDAN: American Hero by Mary Beth Rogers


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An engrossing biography of an extraordinary woman with oratorical skills that matched her determination to honor the Constitution as an instrument of equality under the law. When Jordan died in 1996, she was just shy of 60 years old. She had retired from Congress 20 years before, retreating from Washington to teach at the University of Texas and occasionally advise on low-profile (though not unimportant) issues like immigration, civil rights, and ethics, but because she suffered from multiple sclerosis and other related illnesses, she had become increasingly less mobile and less visible. Yet in those 20 years, Jordan never fell off the lists of most admired women; as late as 1994, President Clinton presented her with the Medal of Freedom for having ""dramatically articulated an enduring standard of morality in American politics."" (Jordan would have appreciated the irony.) Her standards of morality were shaped in a Houston ghetto, where she was born into a black Baptist family, and in Boston, where she attended a virtually all-white law school. She became the first black woman to win a seat in the Texas state senate, and then in 1972, the first black woman elected to the US House of Representatives from the South. Named to the House Judiciary Committee (on the advice of her friend Lyndon Johnson), she plunged into the Watergate hearings, electrifying the nation with a televised speech supporting impeachment. Rogers, who taught with Jordan at the University of Texas and has the cooperation of her estate, captures Jordan's political astuteness, commitment to liberty and justice, and ability to inspire, as well as her ambition, sometime arrogance, and the self-control that was often perceived as coldness. Captured in this praiseworthy portrait, a monumental woman whose ability to stiffen the moral spine would serve these times well.

Pub Date: Dec. 15th, 1998
ISBN: 0553380664
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Bantam