Saturday, April 13, 2024
    HomePoliticsFormer Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson dies at 88

    Former Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson dies at 88

    DALLAS –  Former longtime Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, a political icon in North Texas who represented the 30th Congressional District for 30 years, has died. 

    She was 88 and celebrated her birthday on December 3. 

    Johnson, who was known as EBJ, was a trailblazer.

    Before retiring late last year, she was honored with an official portrait on Capitol Hill after becoming the first African American, and woman, to serve as Chair of the House Science, Safety, and Technology Committee. 

    During the ceremony, she said, “I cannot tell you what this day has been to me.”

    Johnson was a legislative pioneer in Texas and Washington, DC.

    She was the first nurse to be elected not only to Congress but also to the Texas House in 1972 and Texas Senate in 1986.

    In an interview before last year’s ceremony, she looked back on her career. “I want to tell you something, I am proud of my record. I am proud of the things I’ve been able to help our entire area and our entire state achieve.”

    Among her proudest accomplishments, helping both UT Arlington and UT Dallas become Tier One Research facilities. 

    She was recognized for advocating for education in science, technology, engineering and math — particularly for women and girls.

    Then Speaker of the U.S. House, Nancy Pelosi said, “I love bragging about Eddie Bernice because she has been so devoted to science, to education for science, STEM, for all of that.”

    Johnson helped pass the law to end the flight restrictions at Dallas Love Field, known as the Wright Amendment.

    She also helped Dallas Area Rapid Transit or DART win a $700 million federal grant to build the green line that extends from southeast Dallas to DFW International Airport.

    The city of Dallas honored the Congresswoman in 2019 by renaming Union Station downtown as the Eddie Bernice Johnson Union Station.

    “I send my condolences to her family,” said DART Board of Directors Chair Gary A. Slagel on Sunday. “Congresswoman Johnson was an invaluable advocate for and partner to DART since her time as a Texas State Representative in 1972. We will be forever grateful for her service to our community and DART.”

    In addition, Johnson co-sponsored the House bill that led to the creation of 988, the national suicide prevention hotline.

    The Waco native didn’t intend to become a politician.

    After studying nursing in Indiana, Johnson was hired at the Dallas VA Hospital, where she worked to become Chief Psychiatric Nurse.  

    Another part of EBJ’s legacy was her ability to inspire women to run for office.

    Helen Giddings represented Dallas County in the Texas House for 26 years and credited Johnson. “Absolutely, she inspired me because she did it and I could see her and I felt like I could do it as well.”

    After Johnson announced in November 2021 that she would retire, she endorsed then-State Representative Jasmine Crockett of Dallas to succeed her — and was there with her when she was elected one year later.

    Johnson said she preferred a woman to represent the district after her. “I feel that if I don’t advocate for a woman, who will?”

    The Congresswoman though was quick to point out that working hard to pass legislation and bring federal dollars and projects to North Texas was most important to her. “Your gender has nothing to do with your achievements and your interest. If you put your mind to it and give it some time, it’s achievable. And when you achieve it, people benefit.”

    Longtime Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson recognized with official portrait

    Ron Reynolds, the chairman of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, lauded EBJ as a champion for equal rights.

    “Her unwavering dedication to public service, advocacy for equality, and commitment to uplifting marginalized voices have left an indelible mark on Texas and the nation,” Reynolds wrote. “Congresswoman Johnson was a trailblazer and a beacon of hope for countless individuals. Her legacy of resilience and determination in breaking barriers and fighting for social justice will continue to inspire generations to come.

    Those who knew and admired EBJ said North Texans certainly benefitted from her decades of public service. 

    State Senator Royce West, D-Dallas, once described her as a fixture of North Texas politics. “You name it, Eddie Bernice Johnson has quietly, quietly done the work she was elected to do. You’re looking at an institution, an icon, the matriarch of the Democratic Party here.”

    Members of the Texas U.S. House Democratic Delegation sent the following joint statement:

    “Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson was one of the most influential members of the Texas delegation since she arrived in Congress in 1993. 
    She made history and she delivered for our great state in ways that will be felt for generations to come – from her role on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to her leadership chairing the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
    Every one of us at some point sought her invaluable counsel, her perspective and her wisdom on legislation and matters shaping our state. 
    Congresswoman Johnson will be missed, and we all send our deepest condolences to her family and friends.”

    Longtime Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson reflects on her legacy ahead of retirement

     “Eddie Bernice Johnson was a dedicated nurse, state legislator, and longtime U.S. congresswoman with immense courage and a commitment to the promise of America.  She had unwavering dedication to the people of North Texas,” said President Joe Biden. “She and I worked together throughout her 30 years in Congress, and I’ve always been grateful for her friendship and partnership … Throughout her life, and as the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, she was an icon and mentor to generations of public servants, through whom her legacy of resilience and purpose will endure.” 

    Vice President Kamala Harris also served alongside EBJ in Congress.

    “Throughout her long career in public service, she was always clear-eyed about what she was fighting for: the right of every person in Dallas and across the country to live free from discrimination and to have the opportunity to live up to their full potential,” said Harris. “I had the privilege to serve alongside her in the Congressional Black Caucus and know that so many have benefited from her tireless work, myself included. Her legacy and leadership will be felt for generations to come.”



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