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Class Notes

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As a distinguished author, public servant and educator, Professor Barbara Jordan has rendered a lifetime of outstanding service to the United States and to her fellow citizens. In unusually diverse and multiple fields of endeavor and in positions of extraordinary responsibility, Barbara Jordan, through her accomplishments in the national interest and manner of achievement, has exemplified the ideals of West Point as expressed in its motto, "DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY."

Barbara Jordan's extraordinary journey from the segregated Houston neighborhood of her childhood to legendary figure on the national stage is replete with firsts. Deciding early in life to be something out of the ordinary, she honed her gift for public speaking in high school and later at Texas Southern University, where she won national recognition in competitive debate and oratory. After graduating magna cum laude, she enrolled in the Boston University School of Law.

Following graduation in 1959, she was admitted to the bar in both Massachusetts and Texas. Choosing to return to her native state, she opened her private practice in Houston. In 1965, Barbara Jordan ran for the Texas Senate and won with a two-to-one majority -- the first African-American woman ever elected to that body. An astute student of Texas legislative procedure, her performance was so effective that her thirty white male colleagues named her outstanding freshman senator during her first year in office. In 1972, she was elected president pro tem of the Senate and when appointed Texas governor for a day, became the first African-American governor in our nation's history.

Barbara Jordan was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1972 and again was a trailblazer -- the first African-American woman to be elected from the Deep South. During her three terms in office, she served on the Government Operations and Judiciary Committees and was instrumental in the passage of key voting and civil rights legislation.

As a member of the Judiciary Committee, she participated in the nationally televised impeachment proceedings of former President Nixon. In her opening testimony to the committee, she strode boldly into the consciousness of the nation with these now famous words: "My faith in the Constitution is whole. It is complete. It is total. I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution."

In 1977, Barbara Jordan announced that she would not seek a fourth term in Congress. A year after leaving office, she entered the field of higher education, accepting the Lyndon B. Johnson Public Service Professorship at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, the University of Texas. In 1982, she was selected to hold the Lyndon B. Johnson Centennial Chair in National Policy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. As an educator, she has become legendary. Her courses are so oversubscribed that attending students are chosen by lottery. Although no longer in government, she continues to serve our nation -- most recently as the Chair of the United States Immigration Reform Commission.

Barbara Jordan serves as a board member of six major corporations. She is the recipient of more than thirty honorary degrees. She has received numerous national awards including designation as "Best Living Orator," induction into the National Women's Hall of Fame, and most notably, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Throughout her long and dedicated service to our country, both in and out of government, Barbara Jordan has made a lasting contribution to the welfare of others and to the articulation of the ethical foundations of American government. Through the eloquence of her oratory, her relentless pursuit of equal justice under law, and her unswerving dedication to principle, she has left an indelible imprint upon generations of Americans. Accordingly, the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy hereby awards the 1995 Sylvanus Thayer Award to Professor Barbara Jordan.

General, USA (Retired)
Chairman, Association of Graduates