Rep. Shawn Thierry leads way to Barbara Jordan Memorial Parkway
Rep. Barbara Jordan, D-Tex., offers her view on impeachment of President Richard Nixon during a night session of the House Judiciary Committee in Washington Thursday, July 25, 1974. (AP Photo)

State Representative Shawn Thierry (D-Houston), along with other dignitaries, corporate partners, clergy and community leaders, will gather for a formal ribbon cutting and unveiling ceremony of the Barbara Jordan Memorial Parkway in honor of the late congresswoman.

The event will take place Tuesday, March 8, 2022, at 11 a.m., at the 288 Southmore Bridge. The only living sibling of Barbara Jordan, Mrs. Rosemary McGowen, will be in attendance for the ceremony.

For Thierry, this endeavor was very personal.

Rep. Shawn Thierry

“Barbara Jordan has always been a childhood hero of mine, and her legacy has always just been very personal to me and my family,” said Thierry. “My mother actually marched with her during the Civil Rights era. She did sit ins at the lunch counter downtown at Woolworth’s. They were together getting milkshakes poured on their head by whites who did not want Blacks to sit at the lunch counters. They marched to integrate the movie theaters in Houston. So, I heard the name, Barbara Jordan, probably from the time I came out the womb.”

At the age of six, Thierry challenged her teacher for not placing her in the top reading group, even though her work showed she deserved the top placement. After her teacher refused, Thierry’s requested to meet with the principal, and was told, “Shawn, we’ve never had a colored child in the top reading group, and we’re not about to start with you.”

“I immediately launched into my civil rights and equal rights work at the age of six and I told my parents. The school ended up putting me in a room, a week or two later, and asked me to read something on the fifth or sixth grade level, which was highly unfair to me. But I did read it and I was put in that top reading group. And from that day forward, my father, may he rest in Heaven, started calling me little Barbara Jordan,” said Thierry. “Who would think that all these years later, I would end up following her footsteps and serving in the Texas legislature. So, as you can imagine, this [parkway] means a lot to me.”

During Thierry’s second term in office, she realized that there were no highways in the state named to honor Jordan, a Texas legend. She immediately started drafting legislation, had conversations on both sides of the political aisle to get support, and ended up with a bill that passed unanimously on Juneteenth 2019.

However, the work was not yet done.

“It has been a labor of love and very difficult to get the funding for the signage. It’s a little legislative fun fact that even though when you pass the bill to rename the highway, the state will not appropriate the funds for it. So, I had to go find funding, and that took me a couple of years,” said Thierry.

“I reached out to several of the contractors for the highway and others. And I was shocked that with all of the money they make on the tollway, that they did not want to make that contribution. I want to really thank CenterPoint for partnering with me on this. I went to them and they said, ‘Hey, Rep. Thierry, this is wonderful. We think it’s great for our community and the city, and we’ll stand with you on this.’”

As a result, the energy provider sponsored the necessary funding for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to fabricate and install the new highway signage which will mark both ends of the 10-mile stretch of Hwy 288 that will bear the name Barbara Jordan Memorial Parkway. One sign will be placed at Cleburne @ 288, and the other at Beltway 8 @ 288.

On March 8, International Women’s Day, during Women’s History Month, Thierry will be hosting an unveiling ceremony at the 288 Southmore bridge. The Texas Department of Transportation will be closing down traffic there from 8a.m. to 3p.m. allowing for community members to gather on the bridge for the dedication ceremony, Women’s History Month Program and official signage unveiling at 11 a.m. There will be a reception at noon at TSU’s new library, held in the aptly named Barbara Jordan Archives on the second floor.

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Aswad Walker

I'm originally from Cincinnati. I'm a husband and father to six children. I'm an associate pastor for the Shrine of Black Madonna (Houston). I am a lecturer (adjunct professor) in the University of Houston...