Barbara Jordan was a woman of firsts: She was the first African American woman from the South to be elected to Congress, the first black elected official to preside over the Texas Senate and the first freshman senator named to the Texas Legislative Council. Next week, in the vein of her trailblazing legacy, her statue will be the first of a female personage on the University of Texas campus. The statue will be unveiled among the Battle Oaks northwest of UT's Main Building.
Jordan died in 1996 at age 59. The statue of the beloved lawmaker and UT professor has been in the works since 2002, when members of the UT community started discussing the need for greater ethnic and gender diversity in the statues on campus. Jordan's sculpture will join 15 others on campus, including a statue of the Roman goddess Diana located in the quadrangle formed by Andrews, Blanton, Carothers and Littlefield dormitories.
Joycelyn Jurado, 27, was a member of the Orange Jackets, the service-oriented group of students, who developed the idea.
The upcoming unveiling will be "amazing," Jurado said. To see "someone who looks like me being displayed as art on campus and to experience that community is very much needed in our time."
The Barbara Jordan Statue Advisory Committee, headed by Sherri Sanders, deputy to the vice president for Diversity and Community Engagement, raised about $447,000 for Jordan's statue. In 2003, university officials and students approved a $2 per semester student fee to raise money for the Cesar Chavez and Jordan sculptures. The Chavez statue was unveiled in October 2007.
The artist fee for the Jordan statue is $274,000, and the overall cost of the project is about $690,000, including landscaping and transportation.
Bruce Wolfe, the same artist commissioned to create the sculpture of Jordan located in the main terminal at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, created the UT's bronze statue, which is more than eight feet tall and weighs 850 to 900 pounds.
Dedication activities started last week and will culminate with the unveiling ceremony at noon April 24.
"Joining the statue of Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez is this statue of a great female leader, not only in our state but in our nation," Sanders said. "The statue is a testament to the can-do spirit of Barbara Jordan and to the students involved in making the statue a reality."