Barbara Jordan Memorable orator: In darkest days of Watergate she declared faith in the Constitution.

January 18, 1996

BARBARA JORDAN, who died yesterday at 59, made a mark on national politics far larger than her three-term service in the House of Representatives would suggest. She entered politics in zTC Texas in an era when women, particularly black women, faced formidable obstacles. It didn't matter. Through the force of her character and oratory she quickly earned respect and stature.

Her time in Congress coincided with the Watergate scandal, and as a member of the House Judiciary Committee she played a key role in the hearings that led eventually to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. When no one was sure where that high-stakes clash of powers would lead, Congresswoman Jordan's booming voice inspired Americans everywhere when she declared during the impeachment debate: "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."

After leaving Congress, Ms. Jordan joined the University of Texas' Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. In recent years, as she fought the weakening effects of multiple sclerosis and, more recently, leukemia, she devoted herself to her students. Even so, her opinions and advice were still sought and valued. In 1992, in a stirring keynote speech to the Democratic National Convention, she called on Americans to "be prepared to answer Rodney King's haunting question, 'Can we all get along?' I say we answer that question with a resounding yes." She also called on Democrats to acknowledge their complicity in creating an "unconscionable budget deficit."

Barbara Jordan brought to politics and national life a voice of conscience and civility, qualities that are too often missing in today's increasingly shrill debates.

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