The clock is winding down as U.S. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) prepares to close out another chapter in American History.
It was an emotional day as she awaited the unveiling of her portrait that will hang in the Science Committee Room, along with previous chairmen of the Committee on Science Space and Technology.
Words like “great, courageous, powerful, honest and insightful” were used to describe the Gentlewoman from Texas. She was called a “treasure,” and “hard working”… “results-oriented, while very strategic.”
One speaker said Johnson didn’t have to wave her hands in the air or shout from the rafters to be effective.
It was even joked that her often quiet demeanor was in contrast from what you expected from Texans who could be considered to be somewhat loud and boastful.
Thursday’s tribute was one of many occurring since Waco’s proud “shining star” announced that she would not be seeking another term in the United States Congress.
Her office, which is right down the hall from the Committee Room, had a revolving door as people came from across the country to witness the unveiling and express their thoughts and feelings about the senior states-woman.
Bearing gifts and memories; dignitaries, family, friends, sorority sisters and colleagues shared their “EBJ”stories.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson; Workforce Dallas Czar Lynn McBee, who is President/CEO of Young Women’s Prep Network; Marketing exec Shawn Williams of Allyn Media; businessman Ross Perot Jr.; Atty. DeMetris Sampson and NAACP State President Gary Bledsoe joined elected officials past and present in the filled-to-capacity Science Committee Room as they also welcomed her successor, Texas State Rep. Jasmine Crockett.
The Congresswoman’s decision to retire stunned many who had become familiar with her over the years. January 2023 marks 30 years since she first took her seat, the first registered nurse to ever serve in Congress. For the 20 years prior she served in the Texas House and Senate, where she also was the first registered nurse to serve.
She’s received numerous calls including one from former president Bill Clinton and during the program letters were read from President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Luci Baines Johnson talked about the relationship her family had with the congresswoman; most notably with her father, President Lyndon B. Johnson.
In a private moment in the Congresswoman’s office, the former “First Daughter,” who was also a nurse, in passing on gifts to the congresswoman, said, “You have always done the right thing by all of us.”
Sharing just how close the two Johnson families were, she said her father was fond of Rep. Johnson, who first took office in 1973, making her the first woman in Dallas County elected to public office.
There were several high points during the program, including words from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who earlier in the day announced that she would not be continuing in her role, although she would remain a member of Congress, Calling the congress-woman a great pioneer, who was also dazzling and patriotic; Pelosi lauded her for her works and devotion to the sciences.
Speaking of science when the popular movie, Hidden Figures, aired, the real story of pioneering women in the sciences and working at NASA introduced many to unknown or unshared history of the role of Black women in science and technology.
It was a special treat for the congresswoman to have one of the remaining living subjects of the movie, mathematician and NASA aeronautical engineer, Dr. Christine Darden, in attendance.
There was also her dear friend, Ambassador Swanee Hunt, who although she had a speaking engagement at Howard University, made it in time for the unveiling.
Undoubtedly having her “beloved members” of the Congressional Black Caucus in attendance, was significant, as Congresswoman Johnson once chaired the group of mostly African American members of the U.S. Congress and Senate.
She beamed with pride as Congressman Hakeem S. Jeffries (D-NY) came to the microphone. Earlier in the day, she talked about how proud she was of him and how she would love to see him assume leadership.
“It will cap my career, if he ascends to leadership, “ she said. “He is definitely ready and he will make us all proud.”
As he spoke, Jeffries called her a “living legend” and told of how she served as a mentor to him.
During her remarks at the unveiling, Cong, Johnson called on everyone there who had a vote to use that vote in support of Jeffries to succeed Speaker Pelosi.
Her next remarks were received with a robust round of applause, as she praised past leadership but proclaimed, “It is time for some color!”
In addition to the portrait, which was the work of artist Ying-He Liu, the program for Stem women has been named in Congresswoman Johnson’s honor.
Clearly leaving her mark in the Capitol, back in Texas and internationally, Johnson could have served another term. Instead, she told Texas Metro News, “I know I am leaving at the right time.”
However, she said, there’s still work to do, especially within the Democratic Party.
So, if anyone thinks she’s returning to Dallas to sit and twiddle her thumbs, perish the thought. No one who truly serves anywhere for 50 years, disappears into oblivion, especially when “democracy” is in jeopardy!