WASHINGTON — At several events during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Leadership Conference in the nation’s capital last week, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson was feted for her three decades of service.
It was a festive but somewhat emotional afternoon as long-time friends, family, supporters, colleagues and employees, past and present, shared stories as Johnson (D-Dallas) held her last Texas Barbecue on Saturday.
Since she took office after being elected in 1992, the first nurse to serve in the U.S. Congress has held the event to showcase no-table people and programs and welcome her Texas constituents.
Closing out her 15th term, Johnson’s service includes serving as chair of the CBC, but also championing causes such as lupus awareness, aid to veterans, improving transportation, ending homelessness and STEM education.
At this year’s barbecue, all eyes were on her as numerous photos were taken and attendees received a parting gift that included a bottle of Texas hot sauce.
Johnson reminisced about key moments in history since she was first elected and shared stories about her colleagues in Congress and the many challenges they faced as the Democratic Party has only been in the majority 10 years during her entire 30 years representing Congressional District 30.
As the first African American and woman to chair the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee after being elected to the position in January 2019 and the most senior Texan on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, she is the Dean of the Texas Congressional delegation and also serves as Dean of the Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona Democratic Congressional delegation.
Saluting several members of Congress who previously served as chair of the CBC, Johnson laughed as she claimed her term to be the best.
Current and former members of Congress in attendance joined in the laughter as Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina took to the microphone to praise his friend and colleague.
Elected at the same time as Johnson, he recalled how she came in working and never stopped. It was a strong class, he said and “Eddie Bernice became a mother to all of us.”
He explained, “I have never done anything in Congress without checking with Eddie Bernice. What she has meant to this country has not been properly measured.”
The senior legislator, who is credited with “breathing life” into a campaign that led to the election of President Joe Biden, talked extensively about Johnson’s impressive portfolio as he said he prepares for a time when she will no longer be part of the Congressional Black Caucus, which is comprised of mostly Democratic members of the U.S. Congress.
“It’s going to be a sad day to take the oath and not see you,” he told Johnson. “Eddie has been just great for us.”
And for Johnson, who’s been very vocal about her love for her CBC family, she shared her feelings once again as she pointed out that the members who were very important to her and she referenced a column she wrote a year ago expressing the same sentiments:
“We can communicate without saying a word to each other. We can read attitudes without speaking. We can communicate effectively with eye contact.
We are Black in America even when we are of mixed-race parentage or marriage, we find comfort among each other.
Oftentimes, we share experiences that we do not share with our closest family members.
It’s that common experience of sharing the heartbeat of the Nation that no other experience offers.
We work together; Eat together; Travel together; Laugh together; Cry together; Fight together; Worship together; Pray together; Workshare together; Plan together; Hurt together; Sit together; Stick together; and support and defend each other — even when we do not wholly agree. We are family!”
On Saturday she was even more candid as she added more expressions to that list, receiving loud applause, because for her and others, times were not always fun or good, but they got work done on so many fronts.
Topping off the CBC weekend, Johnson was slated to receive recognition for her service in the United States Congress at the CBCF’s Phoenix Awards. Also honored was Fort Worth’s Opal Lee, the “grandmother of Juneteenth.”