Jan 1, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Eddie Bernice Johnson: Trailblazing former congresswoman dies at 88

Eddie Bernice Johnson in 2022. Photo: Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Trailblazing longtime Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) — who was the first registered nurse elected to the House and rose to become chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Dallas-Fort Worth region's most powerful Democrat— died at 88.

The big picture: Johnson, a Waco native who was raised in the segregated South, was the first Black woman elected to a House seat in Dallas, and the first Black Dallasite to serve in Congress — a "towering figure in Texas politics," The Texas Tribune writes.

  • She became the first Black woman to chair the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
  • Johnson retired after 2022, bringing her three decades in Congress to an end.

Her own experience with racism spurred her to get involved in politics, AP writes:

  • She recalled that officials at Dallas' Veterans Affairs hospital were shocked that she was Black after they hired her sight unseen. So they rescinded their offer for her to live in a dorm on campus.
  • She told The Dallas Morning News in 2020 that officials would go into patients' rooms ahead of her to "say that I was qualified."

President Biden said: "Eddie Bernice turned a childhood dream to work in medicine into a lifetime of service, fighting to get millions of Americans access to health care, education and opportunity."

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