Barbara Jordan always sat behind the team bench. Front row, often with Gov. Ann Richards, if there was a University of Texas women’s basketball game, you’d likely find – and hear – Jordan supporting the Longhorns. She even spoke at the team’s 1986 national championship celebration.
A lawyer, politician and eventual professor, Barbara Jordan (1936-1996) was the first Black woman from the South to become a member of the U.S. Congress. She was also the first Black person to serve in the Texas Senate since Reconstruction (a time her great grandfather worked in the legislature).
Politicians being sports fans is not uncommon, but Jordan’s love for women’s basketball at UT – where she taught and has a statue – had an impact.
“When the fledgling Lady Longhorns program was attempting to build in the early 1980s, her presence at games helped influence an audience that perhaps was skeptical that women’s sports could be exciting and worthwhile viewing for fans,” wrote legendary Longhorns coach Jody Conradt in “Never an Idle Spectator.”
“Barbara’s support gave women’s athletics credibility when it needed it most.”
As a politician, Jordan worked to have a minimum wage law including farmers, worked for expanding The Voting Rights Act of 1965 & supported bills for women’s rights (like social security for housewives), and more.
“Human dignity is more important than tax-free bonds, exempt dividends on preferred stock, or larger investment tax credits. Compassion for the sick, the poor, the elderly is not anathema to the efficient functions of a democratic government,” she said in an October 1975 speech.
But she is most well-known for her speech during the impeachment hearing during the Watergate scandal. Afterward, she was so popular, people wanted her to run along with Jimmy Carter for Vice President, something she apparently did not want.
“I ended 144 years of discrimination last night, now give me a breather,” she said after speaking at the Democratic National Convention, according to the book, “Barbara Jordan: American Hero.”
Now no politician is perfect or should be put on a pedestal – as Stacey Abrams recently said, “I’m going to disappoint folks, I’m human and I’m in politics.”
The same goes for humans in sports.
But the impact of Jordan’s presence and support on this women’s basketball program remains fascinating.
Jody Conradt, again, “On many occasions, she spent time with the student-athletes, either by inviting them to her home for a party or participating in post-game gatherings at the arena. Ever a fan, she would compliment their play, but she also queried them about their academics and career goals.”
Even unofficially, Barbara Jordan was a part of the women’s basketball program at The University of Texas.
Jordan died in 1996, at the age of 59.
- Listen: Rediscovering Barbara Jordan (Feb. 1, 2006 from KUT)
- Watch: Barbara Jordan Watergate Articles On Impeachment (July 25, 1974)
- Read: Barbara Jordan: A Self-Portrait (Jan. 7, 1979)
- Listen/Read: A UT ‘Shorthorn’ Met Her Political Heroes, Surprisingly, On The Basketball Court (June 4, 2019)
- Listen: Barbara Jordan Oral History Interview (March 28, 1984)
- Read: The Making of Barbara Jordan (October 1976) Watch: Ann Richards’ Eulogy of Barbara Jordan (1996)