Eddie Bernice Johnson
Official portrait, 2005
Chair of the House Science Committee
In office
January 3, 2019 – January 3, 2023
Preceded byLamar Smith
Succeeded byFrank Lucas
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 30th district
In office
January 3, 1993 – January 3, 2023
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byJasmine Crockett
Member of the Texas Senate
from the 23rd district
In office
January 13, 1987 – January 12, 1993
Preceded byOscar Mauzy
Succeeded byRoyce West
Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from the 33rd district
In office
January 9, 1973 – September 30, 1977
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byLanell Cofer
Personal details
Born(1934-12-03)December 3, 1934
Waco, Texas, U.S.
DiedDecember 31, 2023(2023-12-31) (aged 89)
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
Resting placeTexas State Cemetery
Austin, Texas
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse
Lacey Johnson
(m. 1956; div. 1970)
Children1
EducationSt Mary's College, Indiana
Texas Christian University (BS)
Southern Methodist University (MPA)

Eddie Bernice Johnson (December 3, 1934 – December 31, 2023) was an American politician who represented Texas's 30th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1993 to 2023. Johnson was a member of the Democratic Party.

Johnson was elected to the House in 1992, becoming the first registered nurse in Congress. At the swearing-in of the 116th United States Congress, she became dean of Texas's congressional delegation. Upon Representative Don Young's death in March 2022, Johnson became the oldest member of the House of Representatives. She retired at the end of the 117th Congress.[1]

Johnson also served in the Texas House of Representatives, where she was elected in 1972 in a landslide, the first black woman to win electoral office from Dallas. She also served three terms in the Texas Senate.

Early life, education, and medical career

Eddie Bernice Johnson was born in Waco, Texas, on December 3, 1934,[2][3][4][5] to Edward Johnson, a tailor, and Lillie Mae White Johnson, a homemaker.[6] She and her three siblings grew up attending Toliver Chapel Baptist Church, where her mother was an active member. She had aspired to a career in medicine since childhood, and wished to become a doctor, but was told by a high school guidance counselor that this would not be possible because of her gender.[6] Johnson graduated from A.J. Moore High School at age 16, and moved to Indiana to attend Saint Mary's College of Notre Dame, where she graduated in 1955 with her nursing certificate.[7] She transferred to Texas Christian University, from which she received a bachelor's degree in nursing. She later attended Southern Methodist University and earned a Master of Public Administration in 1976.[2]

Johnson was the first African American to serve as Chief Psychiatric Nurse at the Dallas Veterans Administration Hospital. She entered politics after 16 years in that position.[8]

Early political career

After passage of civil rights legislation and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which enabled African Americans in the South to register and vote, more African Americans began to run for office and be elected. Johnson first became known in Dallas as a civil rights activist in the 1960s.[6]

In 1972, as an underdog candidate running for a seat in the Texas House, Johnson won a landslide victory. She was the first black woman ever elected to public office from Dallas.[9] She soon became the first[citation needed] woman in Texas history to lead a major Texas House committee, the Labor Committee.

Johnson left the State House in 1977, when President Jimmy Carter appointed her as the regional director for the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, the first African-American woman to hold this position.[10]

Johnson entered electoral politics again in 1986, when she was elected as a Texas state senator.[6] She was the first[citation needed] woman and the first[citation needed] African American from the Dallas area to hold this office since Reconstruction. Her concerns included health care, education, public housing, racial equity, economic development, and job expansion. Johnson served on the Finance Committee, for which she chaired the subcommittee on Health and Human Services, and the Education Committee. She wrote legislation to regulate diagnostic radiology centers, require drug testing in hospitals, prohibit discrimination against AIDS victims, improve access to health care for AIDS patients, and prohibit hospital kickbacks to doctors. A fair housing advocate, she sponsored a bill to empower city governments to repair substandard housing at landlords' expense, and wrote a bill to enforce prohibitions against housing discrimination.[11]

Johnson worked against racism while dealing with discrimination in the legislature. "Being a woman and being black is perhaps a double handicap," she told the Chicago Tribune. "When you see who's in the important huddles, who's making the important decisions, it's men."[12] Johnson sponsored several bills aimed at equity, including a bill to establish goals for Texas to do business with "socially disadvantaged" businesses. She crafted a fair housing act aimed at toughening fair housing laws and establishing a commission to investigate complaints of discriminatory housing practices.[citation needed]

Johnson also held committee hearings and investigated complaints. In 1989, she testified in federal court about racism in Dallas's city government. In 1992, she formally asked the Justice Department to investigate harassment of local black students. That same year, she held hearings to examine discrimination charges about unfair contracting bids for the government's Superconducting Super Collider.[citation needed]

Johnson feared the legacy that discrimination leaves for youth. "I am frightened to see young people who believe that a racist power structure is responsible for every negative thing that happens to them," she told the New York Times. "After a point it does not matter whether these perceptions are true or false; it is the perceptions that matter."[13]

U.S. House of Representatives

Elections

Midway through her second term in the state senate, Johnson ran in the Democratic primary for the newly created 30th congressional district. She defeated Republican nominee Lucy Cain 72%-25% in the 1992 general election, and became the first nurse elected to the United States Congress.[14] In 1994, she defeated Cain again, 73%-26%.[15]

In 1996, after her district was significantly redrawn as a result of Bush v. Vera, she was reelected to a third term with 55% of the vote, the worst election performance of her congressional career. All the candidates in the race appeared on a single ballot regardless of party, and Johnson faced two other Democrats. Proving just how Democratic this district still was, the three Democrats tallied 73% of the vote.[16]

Johnson never faced another contest nearly that close. She was reelected nine more times with at least 72% of the vote. In 2012, Johnson easily beat two opponents in the Democratic primary, State Representative Barbara Mallory Caraway and lawyer Taj Clayton, gaining 70% of the vote; she won the general election with almost 79% of the vote.[17] She was reelected in 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020. In October 2019, Johnson announced she would retire in 2022.[18]

Tenure

The 17th chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Johnson opposed the Iraq Resolution of 2002. During debate on the House floor, she stated:

I am not convinced that giving the President the authority to launch a unilateral, first-strike attack on Iraq is the appropriate course of action at this time. While I believe that under international law and under the authority of our Constitution, the United States must maintain the option to act in its own self-defense, I strongly believe that the administration has not provided evidence of an imminent threat of attack on the United States that would justify a unilateral strike. I also believe that actions alone, without exhausting peaceful options, could seriously harm global support for our war on terrorism and distract our own resources from this cause.[19]

In 2007, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Jim Oberstar appointed Johnson chair of its Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment during the 110th and 111th Congresses. She was the first African American and first woman in Congress to chair this subcommittee. As Subcommittee Chair, Johnson sponsored the Water Resources Development Act. She led Congress in overriding President Bush's veto of it, the only veto override of his presidency.[20]

During the 2008 Democratic presidential primary campaign, Johnson initially supported U.S. Senator John Edwards. After he withdrew from the race, she pledged her support as a superdelegate to Barack Obama. Her district backed Obama heavily in the election.[citation needed]

Johnson and Representative Donna Edwards proposed a publicly funded park on the moon to mark where the Apollo missions landed between 1969 and 1972. The Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act, H.R. 2617, calls for the park to be run jointly by the Department of the Interior and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).[21]

Johnson attended COP26 in 2021 and urged immediate climate action, warning, "Scientists have been sounding the alarm on climate for years" and "Inaction is not an option". "We are working to build a clean energy future while creating high quality jobs, and so much more", she said.[22]

Armenian genocide denial

Johnson consistently opposed the historical consensus on the Armenian genocide. In 2009, when asked if she acknowledged the Armenian genocide, she responded "No, I don't."[23] In 2017, when interviewed for a film and asked if she denied that the Armenian genocide occurred, Johnson replied "I do deny that."[24][25][26] In 2019, Johnson was one of three House members to vote "present" on a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide.[27] The Armenian National Committee of America gave Johnson an F− rating for her voting record during the 117th congress.[28]

Presidential election objections

In 2001, Johnson and other House members objected to counting Florida's electoral votes in the 2000 presidential election. Because no senator joined her objection, it was dismissed by Senate President Al Gore.[29]

In 2005, Johnson was one of 31 House Democrats who voted to not count Ohio's electoral votes in the 2004 presidential election.[30] Without Ohio's electoral votes, the election would have been decided by the U.S. House of Representatives, with each state having one vote, in accordance with the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Johnson voted to certify Joe Biden's win in the 2020 presidential election.[31][32] Johnson called the 2021 United States Capitol attack "like a real war".[33]

Scholarship violations

In August 2010, Amy Goldson, counsel for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, said that Johnson violated organizational rules by awarding at least 15 scholarships to relatives of her own or to children of her district director, Rod Givens. The awards violated an anti-nepotism rule and the recipients did not qualify for the scholarships because they were not residents of Johnson's district. Johnson said she "unknowingly" made a mistake in awarding the grants and would work with the foundation to rectify it.[34]

Opponent Stephen Broden released letters bearing Johnson's signature in which she requested that the scholarship check be made out to and sent directly to her relatives, instead of to the destination university as would normally be done.[35] The Dallas Morning News ran an editorial questioning her changing story on the matter, saying that it was overshadowing her service in the House.[36]

Committees

In December 2010, Johnson became the first African American and the first female Ranking Member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.[37] From 2000 to 2002, she was the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education. Johnson has been a strong advocate of investing in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. In 2012, she introduced the Broadening Participation in STEM Education Act, which would authorize the Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) to award grants to increase the number of students from underrepresented minority groups receiving STEM degrees. The bill would also expand the number of faculty members from underrepresented minority groups at colleges and universities.[38]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Personal life and death

Johnson was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and The Links.[45]: 105  In 1956, she married educator Lacey Kirk Johnson; they had a son and divorced in 1970.[6]

Johnson died in Dallas on December 31, 2023, at the age of 89.[4] She had recently been admitted into hospice care.[46][47][48] Shortly after her death, her family announced plans to file a lawsuit against her health care providers, claiming medical negligence was responsible for her death.[49]

Legacy

Dallas Independent School District opened an elementary school in Wilmer, Texas, named after Johnson, in 2020.[50]

Dallas Union Station is officially known as "Eddie Bernice Johnson Union Station" after Johnson.[citation needed]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Texas Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson says she'll run for one final term". Roll Call. October 9, 2019. Archived from the original on July 5, 2022. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
  2. ^ a b "JOHNSON, Eddie Bernice". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved January 3, 2024.
  3. ^ Benning, Tom; Jeffers, Gromer Jr.; Prosser, Maggie (December 31, 2023). "Eddie Bernice Johnson, who broke barriers, represented Dallas in long House career, dies". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved January 3, 2024.
  4. ^ a b "Eddie Bernice Johnson December 3, 1934 — December 31, 2023". Golden Gate Funeral Home. Retrieved January 3, 2024.
  5. ^ Smith, Harrison (January 2, 2024). "Eddie Bernice Johnson, trailblazing Texan in U.S. House, dies at 89". Washington Post. Retrieved January 3, 2024. Many sources, including her official congressional biography, say that she was born a year later, but her son told the Morning News after her death that she was born in 1934. That year is also given in her voter registration files.
  6. ^ a b c d e Roberts, Sam (January 3, 2024). "Eddie Bernice Johnson, Trailblazer in Congress and Beyond, Dies at 89". The New York Times. Retrieved January 3, 2024.
  7. ^ "The Honorable Eddie Bernice Johnson's Biography". Archived from the original on May 4, 2021. Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  8. ^ "Hon. Eddie Bernice Johnson". The History Makers. Archived from the original on May 11, 2013. Retrieved May 15, 2013.
  9. ^ "Johnson, Eddie Bernice (1935- )". The Black Past. Archived from the original on June 18, 2013. Retrieved May 15, 2013.
  10. ^ "Eddie Bernice Johnson (D)". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on December 20, 2016. Retrieved May 15, 2013.
  11. ^ "Fair housing bill proposed". The Bonham Daily Favorite. December 22, 1988.
  12. ^ Korosec, Thomas (August 19, 1990). "Eyes On Texas: Where Men Are Men And Women Run For Public Office". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on May 2, 2015. Retrieved May 15, 2013.
  13. ^ Suro, Roberto (September 10, 1989). "In Dallas, Race Is at the Heart Of City Politics". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 19, 2017. Retrieved February 7, 2017.
  14. ^ "TX District 30 Race - Nov 03, 1992". Our Campaigns. Archived from the original on March 9, 2014. Retrieved May 15, 2013.
  15. ^ "TX District 30 Race - Nov 08, 1994". Our Campaigns. Archived from the original on March 9, 2014. Retrieved May 15, 2013.
  16. ^ "TX District 30 Race - Nov 05, 1996". Our Campaigns. Archived from the original on March 9, 2014. Retrieved May 15, 2013.
  17. ^ "Elected Officials Directory, US House District 30". Texas Tribune. Archived from the original on May 2, 2013. Retrieved June 5, 2013.
  18. ^ Bowman, Bridget (October 9, 2019). "Texas Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson says she'll run for one final term". Roll Call. Archived from the original on July 5, 2022. Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  19. ^ Johnson, E. B. (October 8, 2002). "Remarks during debate on the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002". C-SPAN Video Library.[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ "Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson's Biography". House.gov. Archived from the original on May 4, 2013. Retrieved May 15, 2013.
  21. ^ Kasperowicz, Pete (July 9, 2013). "Dems pitch national park on the moon". The Hill. Archived from the original on July 10, 2013. Retrieved July 9, 2013.
  22. ^ "CHAIRWOMAN JOHNSON JOINS CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION TO UNITED NATIONS CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE (COP26)". science.house.gov. November 10, 2021. Archived from the original on November 11, 2021. Retrieved November 11, 2021.
  23. ^ "Armenian 'genocide' debate reignites". March 11, 2009. Archived from the original on February 16, 2020. Retrieved November 20, 2019.
  24. ^ "Architects of Denial: First Person Account of the Armenian Genocide • MassisPost". May 4, 2017. Archived from the original on February 16, 2020. Retrieved November 20, 2019.
  25. ^ "'Architects of Denial': A Must See Validation of the Armenian Genocide". September 13, 2017. Archived from the original on February 16, 2020. Retrieved November 20, 2019.
  26. ^ Johnson, Amanda Grace (March 11, 2009). "Armenian 'genocide' debate reignites". The Hill. Archived from the original on February 16, 2020. Retrieved March 22, 2022. Bernice Johnson, who circulated a Feb. 25 "Dear Colleague" letter about Schiff's measure, was asked, "Do you acknowledge that there was a genocide?" Bernice Johnson initially responded, "I don't acknowledge, I was not around." Pressed further on whether she acknowledges the genocide, Bernice Johnson said, "No, I don't."
  27. ^ "Ilhan Omar faces blowback after voting 'present' on Armenian genocide resolution". NBC News. October 30, 2019. Archived from the original on November 11, 2019. Retrieved November 20, 2019.
  28. ^ "Eddie Bernice Johnson 592 117". Armenian National Committee of America. Archived from the original on February 28, 2022. Retrieved March 22, 2022.
  29. ^ "Electoral College Ballot Count | C-SPAN.org". Archived from the original on January 30, 2021. Retrieved January 24, 2021.
  30. ^ "Final Vote Results for Role Call 7". Clerk of the United States House of Representatives. January 6, 2005. Archived from the original on May 3, 2008. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  31. ^ "On Agreeing to the Objection". clerk.house.gov. January 7, 2021. Archived from the original on November 9, 2021. Retrieved November 8, 2021.
  32. ^ "On Agreeing to the Objection". clerk.house.gov. January 7, 2021. Archived from the original on November 9, 2021. Retrieved November 8, 2021.
  33. ^ "Texas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson Recounts January 6 Attack: 'Like a Real War'". clerk.house.gov. January 7, 2021. Archived from the original on November 9, 2021. Retrieved November 8, 2021.
  34. ^ Gillman, Todd J.; Hoppe, Christy (August 30, 2010). "Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson violated rules, steered scholarships to relatives". The Dallas Morning News. Archived from the original on November 5, 2010. Retrieved January 2, 2024.
  35. ^ Gillman, Todd J.; Hoppe, Christy (September 8, 2010). "Letters bearing Eddie Bernice Johnson's signature ask that scholarship money be sent directly to her grandsons". The Dallas Morning News. Archived from the original on November 6, 2010. Retrieved January 2, 2024.
  36. ^ "Editorial: Scholarship violations starting to overshadow Johnson's years of service". The Dallas Morning News. September 7, 2010. Archived from the original on December 12, 2010. Retrieved January 2, 2024.
  37. ^ "Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson". The Arena. Politico. Archived from the original on May 30, 2013. Retrieved May 15, 2013.
  38. ^ Koebler, Jason (April 25, 2012). "Legislation Would Increase Minority Access to STEM Degrees". U.S. News & World Report. Archived from the original on March 23, 2018. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  39. ^ "Eddie Bernice Johnson Member Profile". clerk.house.gov. Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. Archived from the original on March 18, 2021. Retrieved March 14, 2021.
  40. ^ "Membership". Congressional Arts Caucus. Archived from the original on June 12, 2018. Retrieved March 21, 2018.
  41. ^ "Membership". Congressional Black Caucus. Archived from the original on May 8, 2020. Retrieved March 7, 2018.
  42. ^ "Caucus Members". Congressional Progressive Caucus. Archived from the original on January 14, 2021. Retrieved March 29, 2021.
  43. ^ "Members". Congressional NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus. Archived from the original on June 12, 2018. Retrieved June 8, 2018.
  44. ^ "Members". U.S. - Japan Caucus. Archived from the original on April 27, 2019. Retrieved December 11, 2018.
  45. ^ Graham, Lawrence Otis (2014). Our kind of people. [Place of publication not identified]: HarperCollins e-Books. ISBN 978-0-06-187081-1. OCLC 877899803. Archived from the original on September 24, 2022. Retrieved February 7, 2022.
  46. ^ "Eddie Bernice Johnson, who represented North Texas in the U.S. Congress for 30 years, dies at 88".
  47. ^ "Former Long-Time Legislator Passes". Texas Metro News. December 31, 2023. Retrieved December 31, 2023.
  48. ^ Livingston, Abby; Salhotra, Pooja (December 31, 2023). "Former U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Black Democratic trailblazer, dies at 88". The Texas Tribune.
  49. ^ "Eddie Bernice Johnson's family intends to sue Baylor Scott & White, alleging negligence". Dallas Morning News. January 3, 2024.
  50. ^ Belt, Mollie (September 10, 2020). "Eddie Bernice Johnson Elementary School opens in Wilmer". Dallas Examiner. Archived from the original on October 14, 2022. Retrieved October 13, 2022.
Texas House of Representatives New constituency Member of the Texas House of Representativesfrom the 33rd district 1973–1977 Succeeded byLanell Cofer Texas Senate Preceded byOscar Mauzy Member of the Texas Senatefrom the 23rd district 1987–1993 Succeeded byRoyce West U.S. House of Representatives New constituency Member of the U.S. House of Representativesfrom Texas's 30th congressional district 1993–2023 Succeeded byJasmine Crockett Preceded byJim Clyburn Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus 2001–2003 Succeeded byElijah Cummings Preceded byRalph Hall Ranking Member of the House Science Committee 2011–2019 Succeeded byFrank Lucas Preceded byLamar Smith Chair of the House Science Committee 2019–2023 Honorary titles Preceded byDon Young Oldest member of the U.S. House of Representatives 2022–2023 Succeeded byGrace Napolitano