The Austin Chronicle

The Barbara Jordan Statue at UT

A welcome return to a champion of justice

By Robert Faires, April 24, 2009, Arts

She stood watch over the Constitution of the United States, and now she's about to stand watch over the University of Texas. On Friday, April 24, Barbara Jordan will take up permanent residence under West Campus' Battle Oaks with the unveiling of a bronze statue in her likeness. That places her far from the LBJ School of Public Affairs, where she taught for almost 17 years, but it's hard to argue with her placement in a grove with the name "Battle" attached. Jordan was nothing if not a fighter, whether it was on the debate team at Texas Southern University in the Fifties, in the good ol' boy chambers of the Texas Legislature in the Sixties, or on the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate hearings in the Seventies. Her intelligence and integrity served her well in every fight and earned her respect even when she lost – which wasn't often.

Seven years ago, the UT student service organization the Orange Jackets launched a campaign to get more statues of women erected on the 40 Acres – the one sculpture of a Greek goddess apparently didn't strike them as adequate representation of women – and Jordan quickly topped the list of women deserving of recognition. A committee of UT students, staff members, and alumni was organized to see the project through, and despite hitting a substantial snag – a design by New Mexico sculptor Kim Crowley proved so unpopular that the committee had to withdraw it and start a new national search – the project has ultimately reached a happy conclusion. The design by Bruce Wolfe – who's also responsible for the statue of Jordan in the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, curiously enough – features the former congresswoman, arms akimbo, looking every bit the guardian of truth and justice she was.

The night before the unveiling, a candlelight vigil will be held on the Main Mall to celebrate Jordan's influence as an educator and civic leader and her commitment to social justice and change. The statue's dedication starts at noon Friday, but just before that, the Innervisions Gospel Choir, the Longhorn Singers, and the UT Trombone Choir will perform a selection of Jordan's favorite songs. Speakers at the unveiling ceremony will include UT President William Powers Jr.; Rep. Dawnna Dukes; student Dera Barlow, who co-chaired the Barbara Jordan Statue Project Committee; and author/actress Anna Deavere Smith. A reception will follow in the Texas Union Ballroom. For more information, visit

Welcome back, Barbara. Your return is long overdue.

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