The Jordan’s pushed their children towards academic success. After graduating from high school, she enrolled at Texas Southern University and earned her bachelor’s degree in 1956. She furthered her education by attending Boston University to get her law degree. After passing the bar Jordan began practicing law in Houston, Texas, where she secured a position as an administrative assistant for a county judge and working John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign.
In 1962, Jordan made her first run for political office by running for a seat in the Texas House of Representatives. She lost the election and was also unsuccessful in her second attempt. Rather than let the losses stop her, Jordan decided to run for the Texas Senate instead. She found success in this venture and won the election to become the first African-American woman elected for the position. She was also the first African-American state senator elected in United States since 1883.
Jordan quickly earned a reputation as a skilled legislator and was selected to serve as president pro tempore of the Texas senate. This made her the first African-American woman in the U.S. to preside over a legislative body. She tackled issues such as establishing the state’s first minimum wage law, removing anti-discrimination clauses in business contracts, and the creation of the Texas Fair Employment Practices Commission.
In 1975 she started the first of her three terms on the Judiciary Committee. Jordan gave the opening remarks during the impeachment hearings and her statements prompted national attention. President Nixon resigned from office on August 9, 1974. Following her success during the impeachment, Jordan remained an active advocate for civil rights protections. She supported legislation that expanded the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and became the first woman keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention.
Although she was establishing herself as a politician, Jordan decided that she wouldn't seek reelection and finished her final term in 1979. She became a professor at the University of Texas in Austin, but she made her way back to politics when President Bill Clinton selected her to lead the Commission on Immigration Reform. He also awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994.
Barbara Jordan died of pneumonia two years later on January 17, 1996, in Austin, Texas.