The idea to erect a statue of Barbara Jordan on The University of Texas at Austin campus emerged from discussions held among the members of the Fall 2002 Orange Jackets‘ tappee class. These students were concerned about the need for a female statue on campus. As an educator and public servant, the name Barbara Jordan quickly emerged to the top of the list as a female role model who had a lasting impact on the lives of all who were fortunate to share her knowledge and insight. Having been a professor within The University’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, Ms. Jordan influenced not only the students enrolled in her class, but also other members of the UT-Austin community who had the honor of working with her to create a more inclusive society that served all of its members.
During the Spring 2003 semester, members of Orange Jackets worked closely with the leadership of the Cesar Chavez Statue Project, We’re Texas Too! Statue Committee, and Student Government representatives to garner support from students to pass a fee referendum that would direct $1.00 per student per long semester and summer session into a statue fund for each project. Collection of the student fees began in the Spring 2004 semester and concluded with the summer session of 2007.
Students were not the only ones in support of erecting these monumental statues. During the 78th Legislative Session, the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Senate passed House Bill 1537 supporting the fee. Governor Rick Perry signed this bill into law on June 20, 2003. On August 7, 2003, the students were able to obtain the support of the University Board of Regents when the board approved the fee increase for the statues.
During the Fall 2004 semester, a nation-wide “call for artists” resulted in seventy-five applicants for the Barbara Jordan Statue Project. Under the guidance of the Texas Commission for the Arts, select jurors assisted the student-led Barbara Jordan Statue Committee in narrowing the pool to four artists who were invited to submit maquettes of their proposed designs. After obtaining feedback from the University and Austin communities as well as the statue committee itself, the members of the Barbara Jordan Statue Committee decided to initiate a second “call for artists” during the fall 2006 semester.
After reviewing nearly ninety applications, the Barbara Jordan Statue Project Committee selected artist Bruce Wolfe of Piedmont, California, to create a commemorative outdoor bronze statue in honor of the late Barbara Jordan, making it the first statue of a woman to be installed on The University of Texas at Austin campus. The Barbara Jordan Statue Unveiling was April 24, 2009 from noon to 1 p.m. at the statue site located at 24th and Whitis Streets.