By Cheryl Smith
Photos: Jesse Hornbuckle
We’ve been holding off announcing this year’s Person of the Year and we’re glad to share this moment with the recipient and those who know, love and respect her and the work she has done over her lifetime.
We are proud of our previous recipients because whatever anyone feels about them, all we ask is that they check the receipts. This year’s recipient, like Rev. Yvette Blair Lavallais, Judge Tammy Kemp, Hall of Fame journalist Roland Martin, and Coach Deion “Prime” Sanders have long receipts and memories.
So many have benefitted from the works of the a fore-mentioned and while some will ever admit it, others are proud to say they stand on the shoulders of these giants.
For at least 50 years, we have publicly had an opportunity to scrutinize, criticize, praise, challenge and more. She’s taken the critiques and praise with grace and stayed her course, ending her career in public office as not only the eldest member of Congress, but one of the most effective members; just ask her biggest critics who really know the deal.
Recently during a “conversation” with the Gentle Lady from Texas, she spoke candidly about how she got started in politics.
Retired U.S. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson was the featured speaker at the annual In Conversation benefitting the Zan Wesley Holmes Outreach Center, which is named in honor of long-time statesman, pastor and Johnson’s Waco school mate, Dr. Zan Wesley Holmes, Jr.
As I interviewed the woman who has so. Many “firsts” in front of her name; I was impressed with her memory as she talked about moments in her life that helped to shape her into a woman who would travel to more than 80 countries, meeting world leaders and helping to build a better world.
She championed issues that were not always popular and she remained committed to the causes she deemed worthy. Passionate, devoted and focused, you could never say she was ill-prepared.
Her story is a wonderful one and soon we will be able to read, in her own words, about her journey and those whose paths crossed with hers.
When she announced her retirement, it was a shock to many and to her credit she named the person she felt could carry on the work of District 30; so for those who say Black leadership does not support, encourage and prepare future leaders, here was an example, with her selection of then-TX. State Representative Jasmine Crockett.
There are also many other rising stars, like Damarcus Offord who we can expect great things from in the future; or Gary Hasty whose efforts on behalf of homeless veterans is laudable.
And then she retired with grace, lending additional support to Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), who now serves as House Democratic Leader and credits Rep. Johnson for her unwavering support and guidance.
Now we have heard the negative comments and we have heard the praise. We also did our research.
In addition to being a leader on the political front, she has served in numerous leadership positions in other organizations, including Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc, and Link’s Inc.
Ms. Johnson is mother, grandmother, community servant and world leader.
She has served with distinction in an ofttimes hostile environment that has definitely not been friendly to Black women. But still “EBJ” as many affectionately call her, stays true to her beliefs and conviction.
Further, in her portfolio she has numerous accomplishments and I am going to list just 10 which I hope will spark you to pursue further information about this dynamic woman.
- First African American and first female chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
- Authored the CHIPS andScience Act, which included an emphasis on scientific research funding (became Public Law 117-167).
- Authored the Suicide Hotline Designation Act, which requires the Federal Communications Commission to designate 9–8–8 as the universal telephone number for a national suicide prevention and mental-health crisis hotline.
- Served as the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus during the 107th Congress. Founded the tri-Caucus (CBC, CHC, and CAPAC).
- Was the lead lawmaker over-riding President Bush’s veto of the Water Resources and Development Act as chair of the Water Resources Sub-committee.
- One of the most influential Members in bringing back infrastructure funding to North Texas and State of Texas, covering various projects including roads, bridges, aviation, and transit projects.
- Involved in multiple pieces of legislation focused on diversifying STEM professions and ensuring all minorities—especially African Americans—have access to STEM education
- Used experience as the first Nurse elected to Congress to provide valuable insights when drafting and passing the Affordable Care Act.
- Played an essential role in drafting and passing a UN resolution focused on Women’s Peace and Security and founded a nonprofit focused on Women’s role in world peace.
- Worked with Local and National stakeholders to help increase benefits for SNAP assistance recipients through the FARM bill and to tackle hunger. Founded the Dallas Coalition of Hunger Solutions.
Just a snippet. There is so much more and I encourage you to get in line for the book, but also check out this conversation:
And if you didn’t know, now you know!