Barbara Jordan Dies

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AUSTIN: Finally succumbing to the multiple sclerosis which had crippled her for the last several years, former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan died on Wednesday. She was 59. The daughter of a Baptist minister, Jordan attained national prominence for her ringing oratory during the Watergate hearings in 1974 and a keynote address that galvanized the 1976 Democratic National Convention. "My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total," she declared during one of the House Judiciary Committee hearings on whether to impeach Richard Nixon. "She had a voice that sounded like the voice of the Constitution itself," recalls TIME's Bonnie Angelo. "She was the voice of rectitude, especially during the Watergate hearings. Her summaries of Nixon wrongdoings were powerful statements of righteousness. She was Biblical in her delivery and unwavering in her principles." Elected to the House in 1972 as the first African-American in Congress from the south since Reconstruction, Jordan was such a commanding political presence that she was mentioned by some Democratic party activists as a possible vice-presidential candidate. "She left a powerful imprint on Washington," says Angelo. "Which was all the more remarkable because she was only there for six years." Jordan left Congress in 1978 and devoted the rest of her life to public service and teaching at the University of Texas.