Profiles of LGBT people, from the past and today – and celebrating their birthdays! All Birthdays →

Barbara Jordan

Barbara Jordan was born on February 21, 1936, in Houston, Texas. She attended Texas Southern University, a segregated alternative to the University of Texas for Black students, where she joined Delta Sigma Theta sorority and the debate team. Then she attended Boston University School of Law, was admitted to the Texas bar, and set up a law practice in Houston. She became involved in politics in 1960, volunteering for the Kennedy/Johnson campaign. Through this work, she became known as a strong public speaker and activist. She ran for the Texas state legislature unsuccessfully in 1962 and 1964, but then won in 1966. She served through 1972 and became the first Black state senator in Texas history, as well as the first Black female president pro tempore of the state senate. She was then elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1972, where she served on the Judiciary Committee. She retired after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and in retirement, she wrote an autobiography, Barbara Jordan: A Self-Portrait, taught at the University of Texas at Austin, and worked for Ann Richards and Bill Clinton. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994. She died on January 17, 1996, in Austin, Texas, and after her death, her obituary revealed that she had been in a relationship with a woman, Nancy Earl, since the 1960s. She is profiled in LGBT African Americans (2014), by Kali Henderson and Dionn McDonald.