BARBARA JORDAN, American politician born (d. 1996); an American politician from Texas. She served as a congresswoman in the U.S. House of Representative from 1973 to 1979. Jordan was a Lesbian with a longtime companion of more than 20 years, Nancy Earl; Jordan never publicly acknowledged her sexual orientation, but in her obituary, the Houston Chronicle mentioned her longtime relationship with Earl. After Jordan’s initial unsuccessful statewide races, advisers warned her to become more discreet and not bring any female companions on the campaign trail. Active in the Kennedy-Johnson presidential campaign of 1960, Jordan was recruited to give speeches and after her success with that endeavor, she was recruited by the local Democratic party to continue on the speaking circuit.
Jordan unsuccessfully ran for the Texas House of Representative 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. Re-elected to a full term in the Texas Senate in 1968, she served until 1972. She was the first African-American female to serve as president pro tem of the state senate and served for one day as acting governor of Texas in 1972. In 1972, she was elected to the United States House of Representatives, becoming the first black woman from a Southern state to serve in the House. She received extensive support from former President Lyndon Johnson, who helped her secure a position on the House Judiciary Committee.
In 1974, she made an influential televised speech before the House Judiciary Committee supporting the impeachment of President Richard Nixon. Jordan was mentioned as a possible running mate to Jimmy Carter in 1976. Her speech at the 1976 Democratic National Convention is considered by many historians to have been among the best — if not the best — convention keynote speech in modern history. She was the first African-American woman to deliver the keynote address.