Barbara Jordan: Speaking the Truth with Eloquent Thunder

By Max Sherman | Go to book overview

RISING TO THE OCCASION

BARBARA JORDAN AND I MET AND BECAME FRIENDS IN THE

Texas legislative session that began in January of 1971. As members of the Texas Senate we had twelve of thirteen identical committee assignments. My family joined Barbara and several other senate families for a retreat in East Texas that year. My son and daughter fell in love with Barbara, who treated them as individuals and helped them to join in the gospel sing-along, which she led as she played her guitar.

That session was also a precursor of events that later shaped all of our lives. One week after I was sworn into my first term as a state senator, the first indication of a major legislative scandal began to rumble through the halls of the capítol. The end result was the Sharpstown Bank Scandal, which led to several indictments and later convictions of key members of the legislature. In the next general election, in 1974, the voters elected 78 new members of the 150-member House of Representatives, 16 new members of the 31-member Texas Senate, a new governor, a new lieutenant governor, and a new attorney general. The political landscape of Texas changed dramatically.3

Because the 1971 legislative session followed the 1970 decennial census, the legislature was required to reapportion both its federal and state electoral districts to reflect population changes. The political stars were aligned: a safe congressional district was drawn for Barbara in the heart of Houston, and in the 1972 general election that followed she was elected with 80 percent of the total vote and 90 percent of the black vote.4 At the same time, sitting president Richard Nixon defeated George McGovern with 61 percent of the popular vote to 38 percent. Nixon carried forty-nine states. Events surrounding this election would sculpt Barbara's congressional career.

Just as the repercussions of the Sharpstown Bank Scandal were subsiding in Texas, a trickle of rumors started flowing from the Watergate

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