On September 16, 2011, the U.S. Postal Service honors the late United States Congresswoman Barbara Jordan with a stamp. The first Southern black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, Barbara Jordan represented Houston’s 18th District for three terms, from 1973 to 1979. She was a champion of the disenfranchised, and an advocate for all Houstonians. Former President Lyndon Johnson was a friend and political mentor, Governor Jimmy Carter considered inviting her to be his running mate, and President Bill Clinton discussed nominating her to the Supreme Court. Anyone who ever heard her knew in their bones that she communicated with authority, authenticity, and the fire of truth. She gave a voice to those without, and spoke truth to power.
None would dispute the choice of the late, great Barbara Jordan, but surprisingly, she is only the second Houstonian to have that honor.
On April 15, 2011, Oveta Culp Hobby became the first Houstonian to be featured on a stamp. Even though she was married to former Governor of Texas William Hobby, Oveta Culp Hobby ultimately took her own path. During World War II, she was the first commanding officer in the Women’s Army Corps, which allowed women to serve in the then-restricted U.S. Army. President Eisenhower appointed her Secretary of the newly-created Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (now the Department of Health and Human Services). Like many noteworthy Houstonians, Hobby was not born here; and, although living a life of privilege, she never ceased serving Houston and the nation.
The U.S. Postal Service has issued stamps commemorating presidents and other noteworthy Americans, achievements, and events since 1847. However, individuals must be deceased for at least 10 years before the Postal Service will honor them – deceased U.S. Presidents are an exception and typically receive the honor shortly after death.
And just in case you were wondering, Sam Houston has been featured on a stamp twice – first in 1936 alongside Stephen F. Austin commemorating the Alamo, and then solo in 1964. In spite of the obvious name connection, many do not consider Sam Houston a Houstonian. Actually, he never lived here full-time, even when he was President of the Republic of Texas and the newly-founded town of Houston was the capital (then relocated to Austin in 1839). Following his first term as president, he represented San Augustine in the Texas House of Representatives. Later, he lived in Austin as president again (and as governor), in Washington DC as senator, and finally retired to Huntsville.