Barbara Jordan: Speaking the Truth with Eloquent Thunder

By Max Sherman | Go to book overview

CONFIRMATION OF
SUPREME COURT JUSTICES

BARBARA JORDAN'S “TESTIMONY IN OPPOSITION TO THE

Nomination of Robert Bork,” delivered to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary on September 17, 1987, is a roadmap of a reasoned and responsible basis for opposing a presidential nominee to the United States Supreme Court. At the outset of her brief remarks, she assured the committee that her opposition was “not a knee-jerk reaction of 'follow-ship' of persons and groups whose views I generally share.” Rather, her strong opposition was based on careful thought and personal experience.

Barbara's personal story is that of a young African American lawyer who in 1963 returned home from law school in Boston to run for a seat in the Texas House of Representatives, seeking one of the at-large seats to be filled from Houston, in Harris County. In 1962 she received 46,000 votes but was not elected; in 1964 she received 64,000 votes but again lost. She asked, “Why couldn't I win? Those were countywide races in which the votes of the people who knew me were diluted by the votes of people who didn't know me. I was dispirited. I was trying to play by the rules, but the rules were not fair.”

The rules began to change when legislative reapportionment was forced on the states by the U.S. Supreme Court in such landmark cases as Bakery. Carr'm 1962, which held that the question of legislative reapportionment was a proper issue to be decided by the courts, and Reynolds v. Sims in 1964, which held that districts in both houses of a bicameral legislature must be as nearly of equal population as practicable. In 1965 a three-judge federal court in Kilgarlin v. Martin ordered the Texas Legislature to redraw house and senate districts to conform to the new “one person, one vote” rule. The court also struck down two provisions of the Texas Constitution —one that limited a county to one state senator and another that prevented any county from having more than seven

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