HOUSTON - She was a woman who achieved many firsts and now iconic Congresswoman Barbara Jordan has another one. A Houston highway now bears her name.
A 10-mile stretch of Highway 288 is now named the Barbara Jordan Memorial Highway. It’s the first highway in the country to be named after her.
"This is a huge day," smiles Texas Southern University President Dr. Lesia Crumpton-Young.
The stately sign now hangs high over Highway 288 for all to see, including Jordan’s only living sibling.
"It’s very important to me to have her name on the Highway right in the heart of Third Ward where she attended Texas Southern University." says Jordan’s sister Rosemary McGowen.
It was at TSU, when the history-making Houston native, as a member of the debate team, defeated opponents from Yale and Brown and the team tied Harvard University.
Even before that, as a student at Houston’s Wheatley High School, Barbara Jordan won a national debate contest. The eloquent and powerful speaker went on to become an attorney and achieve a host of firsts.
"She was clearly a servant leader and clearly an intellectual woman. A force to be reckoned with, and we’re so proud of her," adds Dr. Crumpton-Young.
Barbara Jordan became the first African American woman elected to the Texas Senate, the first Black woman elected to U.S. Congress from a southern state, the first African American woman to deliver a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention and that’s just to name a few.
"I don’t see this as just a roadway. I see it as a bridge for future generations, so they’ll always know never to give up," says State Representative Shawn Thierry. "Barbara Jordan was always the first, and it wasn’t easy."
State Rep. Thierry worked on House Bill 519, legislation to rename 10 miles of Highway 288 as the Barbara Jordan Memorial Highway, for years.
Long before that, Thierry was the first black child her first grade teacher ever taught.
"And because of that, she didn’t want to put me in the top reading group where I tested. So I went home and told my parents and right at that moment they evoked the name of Barbara Jordan and told me to fight back," Thierry said.
She says she did fight back and won.
"From that day forward, my father teased me and said 'that’s little Barbara Jordan right there' and who knew I would end up being one of only four black women from Houston to serve in the Texas legislature just like her."
The big, beautiful sign on Highway 288 is brown, symbolizing its honorary roadway designation.
"This is a gift to our city and our state," smiles Thierry.
If you’d like to drive the Barbara Jordan Memorial Highway, it’s on Houston’s Highway 288 between Cleburne and Beltway 8.